5 Strategies to Incorporate on the Path to Creating Value in Public Health

Creating Value in Public Health

Rola Kaakeh

Postdoctoral Fellow, Health Management and Policy, 2009-2011; Health Care Consultant and Entrepreneur; Founder & CEO, Salus Vitae Group

Many public health professionals, myself included, are motivated by a desire to impact as many people as possible and build something bigger than themselves. But as a researcher, I often ask myself questions like, "How do I know I'm making the world a better place?"

Public health professionals work diligently within their communities and globally to create ripple effects and transform the lives of millions. We are at the forefront of building healthier ecosystems of tomorrow. However, there is an ongoing need to find new ways to add value and further understand how we perceive and measure value and impact.

Below are five key elements that can help public health professionals and others on the path to creating value—and move us all forward in making the world a better place.

1. Design, evaluate, and communicate the impact you want to make and the value of your interventions.

Value is multidimensional and highly dependent on the perspective of the individual or group defining it. It varies greatly among different stakeholders.

The first step in measuring impact is identifying which "world" you are trying to impact to understand the perspective from which to tailor the perceived value metrics. That is, you are evaluating or determining the value to whom? And how does that person or group define value? A world can be your own world (yourself), the world of a specific community you serve, or the global community as a whole. You must outline the gains or outcomes you hope to achieve based on the identified needs of this world. Examples of products and services gains include capacity to lower cost, improve access, improve efficiency, achieve greater health benefits, and provide higher quality care.

Once you've identified what outcome measures you hope to achieve—or the impact you would like to have in the form of measurable metrics—you can begin to track and evaluate whether an intervention has achieved the desired result.

Various types of outcome measures are used in health care to demonstrate the value of products and services. These include clinical outcomes (e.g., physiological measures, such as blood pressure and heart rate ), economic outcomes (e.g., direct and indirect costs), and humanistic outcomes (e.g., subjective measures, such as patient preferences and health status).

Once you've demonstrated the value of an intervention, the next step is communicating the value to stakeholders. Our ability to speak the value—whether in terms of individual or program success—becomes instrumental in creating sustainable change and growth.

Stories are a great way to communicate your value proposition. Stories are even more powerful when supported by data. Identify opportunities to weave data and metrics into your stories to drive home the value of your impact.

How we share these value stories is dependent on the audience, as they vary from internal stakeholders and leadership at institutions to funding agencies and the general public.

Remember, you can create the operational pathways necessary to achieve greater impact when you've identified where value lies.

2. Acquire knowledge.

To add value, you must improve a system, solve a problem, or fill a gap. Acquiring knowledge is a fundamental building block on the road to adding value. Become a lifelong learner and seek out resources—colleagues, mentors, books, articles. Attend events, such as conferences, seminars, lectures, and webinars, to continuously grow and develop your knowledge and skills.

3. Commit to and promote diversity and equality.

Fostering diversity and equality is essential to creating value.

Diversity includes diversity of thought, experience, and background. Everyone has a mosaic of characteristics that impact how they work and live. Innovation lies in how we position these unique characteristics and skills to add the most value. Diversity allows for greater idea generation and creativity in problem solving as well as increased exposure to an assortment of audiences and impact streams.

Equality is the foundation of positive, inclusive, and holistic impact. Reducing inequalities is a priority for public health professionals. The necessity to promote equality is also emphasized in the Constitution of the World Health Organization: "The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is on the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, and political belief, economic or social condition." 

4. Seek inspiration and inspire at the same time.

To be better, we must be inspired. To do better, we must inspire.

Don't merely focus on inspiring others but also on being inspired. Greater inspiration facilitates innovation.

To be better, we must be inspired. To do better, we must inspire.

Inspiration can stem from various sources, including collaborating with professionals with different backgrounds and interests, working with organizations and institutions in different sectors, and reading about topics outside your area of expertise. Seek out the personal and inspirational stories that connect to your purpose and share them with your personal and professional communities.

5. Have empathy, be humble, and be authentic.

While you may become so focused on the data and measuring the outcomes of interventions, you must not forget the human element of this whole process. As public health professionals, we are not merely striving for better numbers, but for better lives.

To achieve this, we must have empathy, be humble, and be authentic during the abundant complex journeys to solve problems and create true value for ourselves and others. Make empathy, humility, and authenticity essential to your work to improve lives and create sustainable, meaningful change.

About the Author

Rola KaakehRola Kaakeh holds a doctorate in pharmacy from Purdue University. From 2009 to 2011, she was a postdoctoral fellow in pharmaceutical outcomes and health services research from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, College of Pharmacy, and Medical School. As a health care consultant and entrepreneur, she has advised organizations around the globe and worked with the United Nations and various universities and professional agencies. She is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Salus Vitae Group (@salusvitaegroup).