IQ Solutions supported the Society of Public Health Educators (SOPHE) by exhibiting at the Annual Meeting, March 30 – April 1 in Charlotte, North Carolina. SOPHE is a membership organization with the vision to “achieve a healthy world through health education” by providing global leadership to the profession of health education and health promotion and promoting the health of society. As a charter member of SOPHE and strong advocate of the SOPHE mission, IQ Solutions attended the conference to talk to health educators about how we invest in the future of public health education through our work in mobile applications, influencer mapping through social listening, data analytics, and innovative communication strategies.
The 67th SOPHE Annual Meeting, with the theme “Building Capital: Investing in the Future of Health Education,” was attended by more than 900 health educators. The attendees included a mix of university professors, researchers, students, public health educators, federal agencies (e.g., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA]), and health administrators (e.g., hospitals, state and local health departments). The IQ Solutions exhibit booth, located prominently outside of the plenary hall, drew a lot of traffic and praise for the display, handouts, and featured health education products.. Students (30% of attendees!) were particularly interested in public health internships and careers at IQ Solutions. Attendees from universities expressed much interest in our program work which was displayed on the 55” monitor, work that included data analytics/visualization and mobile applications.
SOPHE Conference Themes
The SOPHE conference included parallel sessions focusing on amplifying health in schools, collaboration and collective impact of public health initiatives, health equity and social justice, innovations in research and practice, and effective leadership. New for 2016, SOPHE introduced several IGNITE sessions with short presentations in a mini-TED Talk format for health educators to share advances in public health education and promotion.
Reducing Health Disparities
An important theme of the conference included addressing health disparities through health education and policy change. New York City, for example, demonstrates a significant difference in the prevalence of cardiovascular disease across different boroughs. This difference cannot be explained entirely by socioeconomic status or racial/ethnic characteristics alone: place-based features—such as the location of safe playgrounds, access to health care facilities, and availability of fresh food—also contribute to health outcomes.
The Rise of Population Health
Another conference theme was the increasing popularity of the concept of “population health” as a bridge between public health system (focused on wellness and disease prevention) and the health care system (focused on treatments and services). Notably, prevention efforts receive only 3 percent of federal funding for health care, despite evidence indicating that preventable diseases are a pricey contributor to health care costs and only a minority of health outcomes are directly attributable to medical treatment. Population health seeks to engage all stakeholders across the continuum of prevention and treatment to improve health outcomes throughout the population and promote overall well-being.
Better Care, Better Health
Other conference presentations focused on the triple aim of the Affordable Care Act: better care, better insurance, and better health. Proven models for achieving these three aims include accountable care organizations, community-centered homes, and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program comprehensive system of care. Developing and implementing quality of care and performance metrics—as well as modifying the paradigm to provide incentives for positive health outcomes instead of services—are promising ways to improve health care quality and experience, improve health of the population, and reduce health costs. As always, program evaluation and outcome measurement are critical pieces to evaluate any health-related activity, be it related to health education, health promotion, or health care service.
Healthy Schools = Healthy Children
The link between child health and educational achievement is irrefutable. One SOPHE conference track was dedicated to healthy schools. A CDC presentation described the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) collaborative model designed to integrate health-promoting practices in the school setting. Multiple other presentations described implementation of the WSCC model, successful strategies, and positive health outcomes achieved. SOPHE as an organization is heavily invested in promoting health education and physical education as core curricula in school systems across the country. Developing partnership models such as the WSCC to create and validate tools and frameworks, document activities, capture outcomes, and share best practices can help to build capacity and ultimately improve health outcomes in a variety of settings.
Pictured: Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child(WSCC) collaborative model
Health Educators as Agents of Change
SOPHE President Dr. Sandra Bulmer stressed the importance of public-private partnerships in building capacity, and plenary speaker Dr. Marcus Plescia, health director of the Mecklenburg County Health Department, reminded attendees to make the healthy choice the easy choice in promoting public health and educating consumers. Health educators have many opportunities to improve health outcomes: reducing health disparities through targeted and culturally sensitive education efforts, engaging with partners to increase the collective impact of any given strategy, and participating in policy forums to advocate for implementation of evidence-based community population health interventions and health education strategies. These are all goals that we at IQ Solutions can fully support and advance through our work!