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How the Camden Coalition is Making Health Care Quality Contagious

By Sara Brenner

In Camden, NJ – a city in which nearly half of the population lives below the poverty line – Dr. Jeffrey Brenner and the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers have realized dramatic results that demonstrate it’s possible to improve health while decreasing health care costs.  Their approach – discussed in last week’s blog post – which combines data and discipline with a deep understanding of people is impressive. However, they have achieved dramatic results because they expanded their work beyond this approach to include partnership and public policy strategies. Today, I want to highlight these two practices as critical elements of making transformational change.

Open Your Circle

To provide the type of personalized support and wrap-around services that make this model a success, the Coalition has spent significant time and effort building relationships and opening their circle to new stakeholders who can bring new assets to their work.  They started in the early 2000’s engaging private practitioners, hospital staff and social workers, and have since expanded to a partner base that spans “family physicians, internists, pediatricians, nurse practitioners, school nurses, health services organizations, physician assistants … executive leadership of the hospitals, social service/public health agencies, state government agencies, leaders at statewide Medicaid health plans, and policymakers.”  The diverse perspectives of these partners help the Coalition interpret the data they’ve collected, evaluate the approaches they’re applying and connect with resources that can accelerate their work.

Build Public Support

The Coalition has played an active role in crafting healthcare legislation both in New Jersey and nationally that formalizes and incentivizes models like the one they’ve built in Camden.  Through speaking on expert panels, publishing experience-based recommendations for legislators, building broad awareness of the Camden Coalition’s results through national media channels (e.g. The New Yorker, CNN) and joining state and national health care coalitions, Brenner and his team have ensured that the takeaways from their work are inspiring policy change.  Strong policy has the potential to incent others to replicate the Camden model, to reduce legal (e.g. data sharing) barriers to the model and to raise the bar for health care quality expectations. Working with a diverse collaboration of stakeholders – from consumer advocacy groups to the NJ Chamber of Commerce – the Camden Coalition has supported the advancement of legislation to create “Accountable Care Organizations” in New Jersey. This legislation will help sustain the Coalition’s work in Camden but will also encourage the spread of the model – and the benefits of the approach – to new geographies.

Hearing Dr. Brenner share the story of the Camden Coalition’s evolution at last month’s Social Impact Exchange Conference has left a lasting impression.  His passion for the work rang clear, as did his frustration with the failings of the current medical system.  I applaud Dr. Brenner and his partners for bringing disruptive changes to the practice of medicine, and building support beyond typical partners to aim to solve a problem at the magnitude it exists.  We look forward to following the progress of Dr. Brenner and his team!

For more information on the work for Dr. Brenner and the Camden Coalition, please see:

Sara Brenner

About Sara Brenner

As President, Sara Brenner leads the firm’s consulting business. Sara helped develop and is implementing the firm’s new strategy to solve social problems at the magnitude they exist, while leading a sales team that grew revenue by more than 45%. Sara oversees the implementation of the new strategy-aligning products, impact measurement, and talent initiatives with a results-based culture to deliver exceptional value to partners. With over 15 years’ experience in consulting for nonprofits, for-profits and the government, Sara worked extensively in the health and human services including at the Advisory Board Company and The Gallup Organization. See Sara's full bio

4 Responses to "How the Camden Coalition is Making Health Care Quality Contagious"

  • Will DeKrey
    Will DeKrey
    July 25, 2013 - 5:45 pm

    Thanks Phyllis! Our team is often struck by the insight in Gawande’s articles. I love the Checklist Manifesto!

  • Kate Keenan
    September 26, 2016 - 10:37 pm

    I currently am in the Camden coalition’s housing program. This program has not only changed my life, but in so many words it has saved me. I was in and out of the hospital for the past two years with major surgeries and infection with no cure in sight due to homelessness. This program gave me stable housing and stability to allow me to focus on my healthcare needs. This program is the change that Camden needs.

  • Lauri Valerio
    Lauri Valerio
    October 3, 2016 - 12:50 pm

    Kate, thank you for sharing! We are so glad the Camden Coalition has had such a positive impact on your life. We hope their impact and learnings from their work continue to spread!

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