Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, one of the nation’s oldest and most effective regional health planning organizations, announced last week it is now Common Ground Health. The Rochester-based nonprofit is rebranding to better reflect its mission to help our region find common ground on health issues.

The organization, originally designated a Health Systems Agency (HSA) in 1974 by federal statute, was founded in 1961 when a Kodak executive started a health planning council. In the 1970s, the model established here was rolled out as a national model.

After HSAs were phased out in the 1980s, the work of the nonprofit evolved, although the name did not—until now.

The new name was unveiled at a regional meeting at the Yates County Office Building March 3. The region includes nine counties in the Finger Lakes and Rochester area.

Common Ground Health brings together leaders from health care, education, business, government and other sectors to develop strategies for meeting the region’s health needs. From caring for aging populations to preventing lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure and obesity, the organization works with key decision-makers to meet a growing list of fundamental needs for the Rochester region and beyond.

“Many of our health problems are too large and complex for any one organization to solve alone,” says Trilby de Jung, CEO of Common Ground Health.

“We provide the community table and data analysis that allow decision-makers to tackle health challenges together. That collaboration has led to improved care, costs, and outcomes for residents in our nine-county region.”

National and state model

This decades-long commitment to health care collaboration has resulted in both high-quality care and, as the New York Times reported, some of the lowest Medicare and commercial health insurance costs in the nation.

“That success has made the Rochester and Finger Lakes region a statewide and national example of how medical providers and the community can work together to improve health,” said de Jung.

For example, in 2012 with the support of partners from across the community and the leadership of Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, Common Ground Health was awarded the nation’s largest Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation grant. This three-year $26.6 million initiative has trained clinicians in 65 primary care practices across five counties in new approaches proven to enhance care and efficiency.

New York State also recognized the power of Common Ground Health’s collaborative approach to health planning, designating the nonprofit as the region’s Population Health Improvement Program (PHIP) and tapping the organization to help the 10 other state PHIPs duplicate this model across New York state.

Evidence-based

Common Ground Health holds the region’s most comprehensive collection of community-wide health data, allowing its analysts to identify trends, document disparities and test assumptions. This population health expertise grounds community conversations in facts and establishes a basis for shared understanding of the region’s health challenges.

Common Ground Health also provides community health data online, including county-specific health profiles and regional health measures.

“During this time of disruptive change in health care, coming together as a region to set priorities, embrace cross-sector innovation and speak in a unified voice is critical to attracting additional resources and ensuring the most effective use of health care dollars,” said de Jung.

“Though competition helps to create more efficient markets in many areas of the economy, in health care, our community’s leaders get it—lasting improvement calls for finding common ground and moving in the same direction,” said de Jung.