Back in high school I received a great piece of advice: if you want to be successful in life, always set goals for your professional and personal life. I’ve found goal setting to be both clarifying and empowering because it sets a clear direction to work toward. These goals act as a north star that I can organize my day-to-day and month-to-month activities around and prevent me from wandering aimlessly through this big and complicated world. As the old saying goes, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.

At Center for Health Progress, we spent the better part of 2017 doing a deep dive into goal setting as part of our strategic planning process. The result is our 2018-2020 Theory of Change & Strategic Framework, which is both a clear view into our assumptions and core beliefs as health care change agents, and a galvanizing call-to-action to create a health care system that works for all Coloradans, regardless of race, income, or ZIP code.

In our planning, we utilized various tools to navigate the uncertain health care landscape. Our external theory of change outlines the key changes we believe need to happen in Colorado in order to reach our long-term goal that people who experience health inequities due to historic and systemic injustices have access to timely, high-quality, and affordable health care services that meet their needs. Out of the numerous potential areas of work the theory of change identified, we decided to focus our efforts on the highest-leverage areas that will drive the most change toward our goals.

Then, we examined our core competencies and the types of work we excel at. We found it useful to examine the health care change landscape through the metaphor of different types of races: a marathon, a 5K, and a sprint.

  • “The sprint” – Short-term campaigns, such as to protect the Affordable Care Act and public health insurance programs
  • “The 5K” – Ongoing efforts with mid-length timelines, such as to develop legislation or ensure implementation of key policies
  • “The marathon” – Long-term movements, such as to build grassroots power to achieve universal coverage or health equity

While we engage at each of these levels in various ways, we are clear that our current priority work primarily falls in the marathon space. We also acknowledge we are part of a robust “track team” of local partners, each specializing and leading in different races. At times, we have invested significant time and resources in the sprint and 5K; however, our partners have taken the lead in important ways.

The result of this work is our strategic framework, which we’re very excited about. Over the next three years, we are orienting all of our programmatic work around the following three goals:

  • Grassroots leaders, health systems leaders, and high-impact decision makers recognize social determinants of health and historic and systemic oppression as driving factors in access to care and health inequities
  • Colorado Medicaid payment reform efforts address social determinants of health and include payment for upstream factors that drive inequity in the health care system
  • Health systems create change that better meet immigrant needs in response to immigrant community concerns, building allyship and momentum toward a coverage campaign

And of course, in order to achieve our health equity mission, we must strive for financial sustainability and effective operations that are consistent with our values. This means building our grassroots base so that we can take direction from the Coloradans who live our health care system’s failures and know best what needs to change. It means taking a hard look at our own organization and making structural changes that put equity into practice. And, it means increasing our resources, expertise, and infrastructure so we can lead this work across the state.

The work we’ve laid out for the next three years is both bold and energizing. We envision a cadre of champions taking action around social determinants of health within health systems and in community. We picture a day when patients sit at payment reform tables as equal partners and experts in their lived experience. We imagine a day when the health care system prioritizes the needs of our immigrant neighbors, friends, and family members. We look forward to a day when our neighbors are healthy, our communities prosper, and Colorado is stronger. Bring it on, 2018!