The California Wildfires and Puerto Rico: PCI Responds to Challenges in Health and Jobs

By Mei Lin Fung, Co-Founder of PCI 

At a PCI launch event in 2015 at Stanford with Dr. Bela Matyas, Public Health Officer for the California County of Solano, we focused on how we can build resilient, healthy communities by sharing information – especially in times of crisis.

When wildfires struck Northern California last month, the PCI team activated immediately. We could dive into the crisis by way of the California Health-Medical Reserve Corp (CH-MRC), an organization founded to bring capabilities together from information, communications and technology (ICT) sectors so public and private partners can support local community health and resilience. The People Centered Internet is a spin-off project from CH-MRC and the Innovation for Jobs (I4J) initiative chaired by Vint Cerf and David Nordfors.

The combined efforts of CH-MRC and PCI can build robust networks between communities which share information and use it to improve lives. The US Dept of Health and Human Services (HHS) over more than two decades nurtured community health networks. The US Dept of Defense (DoD) Health Affairs identified networked leadership as key to the future of health. HHS and DoD co-led the Federal Health Futures initiative which identified bright spots in the country.

In California, Solano County’s Public Health Information Exchange benefited from earlier HHS funding of University of California at San Diego’s BEACON project to connect community players in data-sharing networks. Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC’s) have been organized into networked improvement communities. Working together in Breakthrough Collaboratives, since 1995, FQHC’s steadily advanced community health in structured Plan-Do-Study-Act 6-month cycles of improvement. The Networked Improvement Community model is going global nurtured by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, with the leadership and backing of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The California projects mentioned above share Dan Desmond as information architect. Dan is a member of CH-MRC who helped to launch People Centered Internet. When the fires hit adjoining Napa and Sonoma County, Dan Desmond and his team sprang into action to assist the Red Cross response as the fires expanded into Solano. He is currently leading our efforts in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands joining with local and national partners.

These territories of the United States and home to about four million people, face the massive challenge of restoring health in the face of the destruction of electrical power generation, restricted access to water, lack of communication and transportation.

PCI and CH-MRC are working to bring hope to devastated communities by engaging the people. We plan to start with the existing networks of the 22 primary Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). There are a total if 91 FQHC locations on the island of Puerto Rico. We are working with this underlying improvement community network as a base to:

  • Collect/coordinate mobile data for real-time, adaptive situation awareness
  • Align public and private efforts for recovering identity and identity theft
  • Facilitate training, education and skill-building for Puerto Ricans in the deployment, maintenance and enhancement of recovery systems, and in innovation and enterprise so they are well-positioned to lead the recovery of Puerto Rico.

A recent article in Medium articulates so very well the ”Once in a Lifetime” opportunity we now have to apply technology to improve people’s lives. We have PCI and CH-MRC teams organized and I encourage you to join us.

Through our efforts in Northern California, we have witnessed how hands-on tech combined with community engagement can transform disaster recovery.  Do join us in putting this to work in the US Territories of Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.

Please contact me directly with questions.

Mei Lin Fung

mlf@alum.mit.edu

 

 

 

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