What the heck is an ACH? Five things you should know

Thanks to the Public Health and Community and Human Services staff for their candid insight on camera!


Describing the workings of an animal-controlled helicopter sounds fascinating, but a bit outside of our content expertise. Instead, let’s dive into a few of the facts about an Accountable Community of Health, particularly in King County.

1. What’s an ACH? An ACH is a group of leaders from a variety of sectors in a given geographic area (in our case, King County) who are working together to improve health and well-being. There are nine ACH regions in Washington state. Each ACH is regionally governed and they are in different stages of development.

If you were to walk into a meeting of the King County ACH, you’d see leaders from community health centers, philanthropy, hospitals, health insurance companies, public health agencies, housing and other non-profit social service agencies. As the ACH evolves, you’re likely to see leaders from other sectors come to the table.

2. What started the ACH? While cross-sector coalitions dedicated to improving health have existed for years in King County, what’s new is recognition and support from Washington state for a regionally governed, backbone structure to better coordinate and advance those efforts. Right now, the primary support for the nine ACHs comes in the form of grants and technical assistance from the Washington Health Care Authority – part of the state’s larger “Healthier Washington.”

3. What’s the value of an ACH? So what’s wrong with our current health system and what are we transforming to? There’s a lot that is working well in our current health and human service system. For example, under the Affordable Care Act, more folks now have access to health insurance. And through King County’s Health and Human Services Transformation, investing in community-driven solutions is already taking hold.

But we have a long way to go before our health and human service system works seamlessly and efficiently for everyone. For example, our mental health and physical health care systems are not well-coordinated, leaving individuals with the enormous task of navigating two different systems. And improving health for our whole community will take much more than improving the health care system. It will take increased coordination between health and social services, and community-based solutions to create strong and vibrant neighborhoods.

football4. What’s the game plan?
Given the season, it’s hard to think of the ACH in te
rms other than
football. In football, each team has a guiding approach that they use as they aim towards the playoffs. Perhaps it’s the reliance on a strong quarterback coupled with an exceptional defensive line. In the ACH’s case, that framework is known as the triple aim—simultaneously designing systems for better health and health care at lower cost. In the case of a football team, how that strategy gets put into place each game depends on the strengths of individual players, their teamwork and the context of where they play. In the case of the ACH, how the triple aim gets put into place depends on the strengths of the many sectors within a given region, their teamwork and the regional context in which each ACH operates.

5. Such a big task, what’s in the works? Like any large system improvement, it will take time. The ACHs are planned to be fully operating by 2018, but are already taking steps to identify and organize around priorities they want—and need—to work together to really move the needle on the community’s health. Much is still being figured out. In King County, this is also all happening on the backdrop of a few existing transformational initiatives that community partners are already working to advance, such as Communities of Opportunity and Familiar Faces.

Learn more about the King County ACH

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