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Preview PolicyLab's 10th Anniversary Forum: Q&A With David Rubin

Published on September 12, 2018 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 3 years 7 months ago


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Regional and national leaders in children’s health policy will convene in Old City, Philadelphia Oct. 22 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of PolicyLab, a Center of Emphasis at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute. Never one to sit on the sidelines, PolicyLab has evolved over the last decade to become an energetic force in evidence-to-action reform, shaping the policies and practices that impact the health and well-being of children and families across the country.

It’s in this spirit that the Center’s fall forum, “Charting New Frontiers in Children’s Health Policy and Practice”, will outline innovative solutions to move the dial on child and family health over the next 10 years. Infused with discussion, dialogue, and dynamic presentations, the event will gather city, state, and federal leadership alongside PolicyLab’s faculty and staff.

“I think this event will energize the big questions we’re going to want to ask in the next 10 years and dare us to be bolder in taking chances,” said David Rubin, MD, MSCE, co-founder and director of PolicyLab. “I think it’s going to set the stage for a strategic planning process for PolicyLab, but I also think it’s going to lift us to a new level of influence.”

In anticipation of the exciting event, we went behind the scenes of the upcoming forum with Dr. Rubin in our latest Cornerstone Q&A.

What made you decide to celebrate PolicyLab’s 10thanniversary with a forum?

If I took a 40,000-foot view of PolicyLab over the last 10 years, in our early work, we did a lot of characterization of issues across large populations — we asked, what were the issues that were facing children? Then, in the latter half of those 10 years, we’ve traversed over to building programs, particularly locally, that we can evaluate to respond to the challenges that we defined early on. So, as I thought about this 10-year milestone, the question was: What are the next frontiers?

And to me, the next frontiers for us are still implementing stronger programs, but replicating and sustaining these programs; to go across our portfolios and ask more ambitious questions and really talk about impact in a whole new way.

At the same time, I thought it was important to convene all of our stakeholders. Here’s a community that we’ve cultivated in leadership at the city, state, and federal levels that were on this journey with us. Their opinions matter to us. To have them come together with our folks and to have them engage in a conversation about what impact looks like over the next 10 years –– I think that’s really important. And it’s a demonstration of all the work that our interdisciplinary team has done over the last decade to develop those relationships and to really be a trusted partner.

What are some of the themes and topics that we’ll hear about Oct. 22?

You’re going to see carve-outs from our four main research portfolios –– from taking a national and local look at health equity, to adolescent issues around transition, to working with families, to thinking about what the transformation of healthcare delivery is going to look like for families. But then we’re also going to take a very community-based perspective and look at the challenges around integrating behavioral health for youth. We’ll address some of the juvenile justice challenges that folks have had in terms of trying to find alternatives to incarceration and trying to promote resilience and opportunity for youth in the city.

What can attendees expect to get out of the forum? What makes it unique?

I think attendees can expect a really good conversation. I think PolicyLab differentiates itself by being under the hood –– by not just superficially scanning an issue, but really asking, what is it going to mean to change the provider who works for the family –– whether it be a pediatrician, a social worker out in the community, a case worker, or someone who’s navigating a family or parent through their life? We look deep under the hood and say, let’s not just do a cursory look at what the solutions will be. Let’s look at what this is going to mean. And we’re going to have that deeper conversation with original speakers, right down to our keynote speaker.

That’s right –– your keynote speaker is Stephanie Barna, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness at the U.S. Department of Defense.

I’m thrilled that Stephanie Barna is going to do this. For a keynote speaker on children’s health policy, most people wouldn’t think it would be someone from the Department of Defense. But in my experience with the Military Family Readiness Council, I’ve come to have a deep respect for how the military views family readiness. The Under Secretary can talk about family readiness not just from the context of the military, but how we should be thinking about it in terms of the American family. I think that’s the kind of talk that people are going to be like, wow, I haven’t heard a speech like that before.

There’s going to be an exciting infusion of local and national leaders at this forum. Could you describe the importance and impact of such a guest list?

It's really amazing to me that all the leaders of all the children’s systems in Philadelphia are participating in this conference: the superintendent of the schools, the commissioner of behavioral health, the commissioner of the Department of Human Services, and our health commissioner. All four of them, and in addition, our lead district attorney, Larry Krasner, are attending. So, you have everyone who touches all the lives of children in Philadelphia participating in this even. That’s really unique. We also have two former leaders of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services for children at the federal level.

For our lunchtime event, we’re bringing in two folks who represented family issues from both sides of the aisle, Bruce Lesley and Rodney Whitlock, to come together for a dialogue that will be moderated by our Health Policy Director, Ahaviah Glaser. I’m really looking forward to that because I think it will set the stage for the lens by which our federal government might be viewing the frontiers for children and families as we move forward in the next few years. So, all in all, we have significant city and state and federal leadership, in addition to our own faculty, in what I think is going to be a really terrific dialogue.

Speaking of dialogue, let’s talk about the event’s setup, which encourages conversation in a unique way.

We wanted it to be interactive. So, you have some things that are offered to everyone, like the keynote address, the work with Bruce Lesley and Rodney Whitlock, Madeline Bell’s speech, etc. But I think it’s nice to give people selection. Not everyone’s interested in the individual topics, so we gave attendees some range of offerings to craft their experience of the conference in these breakout sessions. Within these panels, we’re trying to get to discussion, so while we have some really terrific presenters, we’ll also get the audience involved. We don’t want to talk at people; we want to talk with people.

How do you see research informing this event?

To me, all of our work is about evidence to action. We’ve made sure in every one of these panels that there’s a focus on the actual work that we do and the outcomes we’ve generated, the data we’ve demonstrated. To me, this isn’t just about building programs. This is building evidence-informed programs that are rooted in rigorous research. Despite all of our impact and influence, the mainstay of this Center is our research and development. That’s what differentiates us. The value and the credibility of research to our stakeholders will come across loud and clear across the day.

As co-founder and director of PolicyLab, what excites you the most for this forum?

I feel like PolicyLab has taken on a life of its own. I’m always energized by the creativity of the people who work here and what we’ve been able to achieve in the last 10 years. I’ve talked about the growth of our staff and faculty as being one of the most rewarding experiences because we’ve brought this community together. To see that come together Oct. 22 is probably one of the most rewarding moments of my career.

See the forum’s full agenda and register.