Health Futures Group

In the summer of 2008, the Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) had to contemplate the function of the USAF medical system in the context of complex domestic and global future environments. The Deputy USAF SG, Major General (MG) Charles Bruce Green, decided to look out as far as 25 years and initiated a semi-formal dialogue amongst thought leaders from the Federal and the civilian sectors. The dialogue would occur in a non-attributional “safe harbor”, recognizing that senior leader’s comments are easily misconstrued as official directives. The over-arching intent was to make USAF medicine the world’s best health enterprise. The HFG was developed as a collaborative, voluntary partnership across Federal agencies aimed to redefine the rubrics of health. The mission of the HFG is to improve the nation’s health and security by mobilizing organizations with a vested interest to share knowledge, align resources, and shift focus. The essence of this shift is captured in a meme that originated out of HFG meetings and workshops and is now diffused across several sectors: “From Healthcare to Health.”

In October 2012, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, the Honorable Dr. Jonathan Woodson, took lead of the HFG. He accelerated its evolution to communicate and share ideas, innovation, and wisdom as a stimulus for action in health strategy. Dr. Woodson emphasized the importance of enterprise-wide, meta-leadership development wherein all senior leaders must take responsibility, align, coordinate navigation, clear the way for, and bolster the transitions necessary for large-scale health system transformation. HFG members come from multiple federal agencies and are networked with representatives from non-government organizations and the private sector. Federal agency members may include representatives of:

Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Health & Human Services
US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps
Department of Homeland Security
Office of Personnel Management
Department of Education
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Department of Agriculture
Department of State
Department of Defense
US Agency for International Development

The HFG members share the conviction that health is a national strategic imperative with implications for national security. Several approaches to solutions include person-centered wellbeing, community-based health action, innovation in technology and processes to grow knowledge and save resources, and the need for citizens and organizations to adopt a holistic, global framework for the health ecosystem. The HFG explores for “positive deviants” (also called “outliers” or “black swans”) as exemplars of new paradigms for the health enterprise.
Beginning in April 2013, the HFG invited senior and emerging interagency, non-governmental, academic, and private sector leaders to meet in a series of roundtable discussions to collaboratively transform health. These meetings became known as the Interagency Health Leaders Roundtables and have convened seven times to exchange knowledge about the state of current health systems, health–related issues, innovative practices and programs, leadership perspectives, and visionary ideas relevant to global and domestic strategic thought.

Each roundtable, now convened at the National Defense University (NDU), Ft. McNair, Washington D.C., addressed a relevant theme that could influence global, national, and community strategies. Plenary sessions and small group discussions have been targeted toward three subordinate themes: Health Systems Innovation, Interagency Health Leadership Development, and Strategic Global Health.
The Health Futures Group and the Interagency Health Leaders Roundtables have catalyzed several initiatives that are helping to establish health as a national and global security strategic imperative:

  • Interagency Collaboration: key stakeholders across multiple organization have participated in this process and developed networking relationships and partnerships
  • NDU Academic Environment: NDU, a major institution for national security scholarship, has become the home for the roundtables and discussions to further mature this strategic effort
  • Healthcare to Health: participants are united in a paradigm shift from the narrow focus of healthcare to a more holistic and encompassing emphasis on the broader aspects of health
  • Strategic Global Health: health is recognized as a major and necessary component of the National Security Strategy and has global geopolitical impact
  • Enterprise Leadership Development: a set of Enterprise Leadership Competencies were developed to empower leaders to have impact across boundaries and organizations
  • Innovation: non-constrained thought to generate ideas for collaborative scholarship, research, current application, pilot projects, or implementation by stakeholders

The core objective of the HFG continues to be one of leveraging strategic partnerships through a set of initiatives that focus on innovative enterprise-wide health strategy. Continued HFG efforts will include:

  • Futuristic thought to imagine as yet unforeseen challenges and foster solutions
  • Innovative, cross-disciplinary thought for addressing complex health enterprise challenges
  • Determining implications of U.S. health strategy within a global context
  • Strengthening interagency ties and unity of effort for continuous health system improvement

The HFG aperture continues to be on long-term opportunities for Federal and private sector collaboration, contemplating up to 25 years into the future for collective impact for the greater good. Continued participation from representatives from multiple interagency partners is essential for unity of effort.