Social Innovation

SparkDC: A Platform for Innovation

By: Annika Anderson, MPH

On September 19th, 2023 I had the honor of attending the Honorable Mayor Muriel Boswer’s 6th Annual Maternal and Infant Health Summit as a SparkDC Speaker. This year’s summit focused on timely topics including working women and best practices for employers of expectant mothers and those returning to the workforce after expanding their families; resources to support families; and reimagining what is covered by insurance.

SparkDC Speakers are designated as changemakers advancing ideas that enhance the quality of life for families in the District of Columbia and worldwide. I was tasked with writing and delivering a 7-minute “TedTalk-style” speech to community members, health experts, and elected officials in the District of Columbia, including members of the Biden administration. 

Specifically, the SparkDC segment is an opportunity to pose a question that sparks our organizational curiosity and/or highlight strategies that our organization uses to meet diverse care needs. In Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health, team members regularly reflect on the sentiments of our Executive Vice President, Dr. Paul Dworkin:

“What if our goal for child health services is not ‘merely’ to treat or even prevent childhood diseases and disorders, but is also to promote children’s optimal healthy development?”

As public health practitioners, we know how essential (and upstream!) health promotion activities are in supporting children’s optimal healthy development. Slowly, the social determinants of health are being embraced by policymakers and healthcare systems, but we are just on the cusp of penetrating systems change.  

To expand on Dr. Dworkin’s remarks, I described how the Help Me Grow system model innovatively supports families across different community settings, including the District of Columbia’s Help Me Grow hotline 1-800-MOM-BABY. 

In an effort to address how resources can best support families, I introduced the concept of co-design and Human-centered Design methodologies, positioning them as emerging best practices for how to include and uplift family voices in the creation and adoption of programmatic tools and processes.   

Watch the recording of the speech here to learn more.

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