An essential aspect of the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation’s mission to improve care for vulnerable and historically underserved communities is to support consumer health leaders as they advocate for health system change. To that end, this week the Center launched a new Leadership in Action (LIA) program for our Consumer Voices for Innovation (CVI) grantees. LIA will connect our CVI grantees’ staff with distinguished senior leaders in the health care field to enhance their policy expertise and foster strategic relationships with key health sector leaders.

The goal of the LIA program is to create partnerships. The senior leaders have all spent their careers working in the health care system and can provide advice, insight and perspective to consumer advocates working to make the health system work better for vulnerable people.

At the same time, the senior leaders have the opportunity to build on the work they have done throughout their professional lives by working with established consumer health advocacy organizations who are on the leading edge of consumer engagement in health system transformation.

One senior leader, Mary Kennedy, who recently retired as vice president of Medicaid and Managed Long-Term Care at the Association for Community Affiliated Plans, expressed her excitement about the opportunity the new program creates. As Mary puts it, “The Center is providing a structured way to use my years working in health care to inform and mentor consumers who are working on health care options for today and tomorrow.”

These partnerships will exist not only between senior leaders and the state advocates they are paired with, but will also include cross-team, cross-state learning opportunities so participants can benefit from the strategies and insights from their peers in other states and the expertise of the other senior leaders. Collectively, their experiences will help us learn not just how to successfully influence local policies and practices, but also to refine and expand our commitment to supporting the next generation of state consumer leaders.

LIA builds on the successful Geriatrics Provider Collaboration program that Community Catalyst and the Center have been running for nearly four years. Supported by The John A. Hartford Foundation, the Center engages leaders in the fields of geriatrics and gerontology to work in partnership with state consumer advocates. These partnerships have been effective in incorporating best practices in geriatrics care – which improve efficiency, quality and outcomes – in the dual eligible demonstration projects underway in many states.

Helping our consumer advocates build new connections will be vital as we collectively work to create a health system that makes care better for vulnerable people and populations. The LIA program is the next step in the Center’s work of supporting advocates on the ground to ensure a movement toward person-centered care.