Center for Innovation in Population Health: Building a Culture of Health in Kentucky

July 26, 2018


The health challenges faced by Kentuckians are daunting. With epidemics of cancer, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, the Commonwealth suffers from severe health disparities – notably concentrated in the Appalachian region. Issues of health care access and cost compound the situation across entire populations. Yet in the dilemma faced by Kentucky, there is opportunity. Underway now is a large-scale initiative to integrate the public and private sectors – researchers, health care organizations, government agencies, communities – in  a comprehensive program led by the newly-established Center for Innovation in Population Health at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health. If this initiative succeeds in altering the landscape of health in Kentucky, it will produce models that can be implemented across the nation.


Based in the College of Public Health, the Center for Innovation in Population Health (CIPH) will bring together trans-disciplinary experts with the goal of improving population health, well-being, and equity.  To achieve a “culture of health,” the Center will emphasize four strategic goals: making health a shared value, fostering cross-sector collaboration to improve well-being, creating healthier and more equitable communities, and strengthening integration of health services and systems.


The largest decreases in life expectancy observed in the United States are currently in eight Eastern Kentucky counties. Kentucky residents suffer from some of the most severe health disparities in the United States. Particularly in the Appalachian region, residents experience extreme disparities in socioeconomic status, community resources, and health status. As a result, the Appalachian region has among the highest rates of morbidity, impaired quality of life, and disability. Each year, thousands of preventable deaths occur from diseases such as stroke, heart and pulmonary diseases, substance abuse, diabetes, and cancer.


“Kentucky provides a unique environment for a Center for Innovation in Population Health. Concentrating our efforts in Kentucky will allow us to focus on a population segment that experiences some of the nation’s poorest health outcomes, many of them rooted in challenging social, economic, and environmental conditions. While Eastern Kentucky is the epicenter of the ‘deaths of despair,’ solutions to the excess mortality risk in Appalachia have been elusive,” said Dr. Donna K. Arnett, Dean of the College of Public Health.



Utilizing a cadre of experts in health care delivery, quality and value, behavioral health science, wellness and prevention, and coalition building, the CIPH will:


  • Foster strong, multi-sector collaborative relationships with key partners throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky to support the identification of a common set of priorities and a well-developed strategy for addressing population health improvement.
  • Build a portfolio of research, evaluation, and dissemination/implementation initiatives that support and enhance the Center’s multi-sector collaborative relationships in population health.
  • Develop a non-profit service line that further “commercializes” Center products to ensure widespread use across Kentucky and beyond. Revenues from this entrepreneurial arm will further support Center activities.
  • Offer a workplace wellness service line in collaboration with other colleges at UK.


As a catalyst of positive change in population health, the CIPH will focus on collaborative initiatives that align medical, business, social, and public health approaches to health improvement through multi-sectoral collaborations. Building robust coordinated systems that support population-wide improvements in health status becomes increasingly more difficult to accomplish with each added variable. However, through rigorous measurement, benchmarking, and related research, the CIPH will expand the capability and capacity of the University to improve health outcomes for Kentuckians while also developing effective health policies and practices for population health management.