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Susan Kennedy, M.P.P., M.S.W.

Senior Manager - AcademyHealth

Susan Kennedy is a Senior Manager at AcademyHealth supporting a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) grant focused on collaborating with various organizations and stakeholder groups to influence health care payment reform so that it supports community-wide population health.

In this role, she helps key stakeholders identify, research and solve problems related to implementing community health-focused payment models that have been identified through planned barriers analysis and stakeholder engagement processes. She also serves as the Manager for the State University Partnership Learning Network, which works to support evidence-based state health policy and practice with a focus on transforming Medicaid-based healthcare, including improving the patient experience, improving the health of populations, and reducing the per capita cost of healthcare.

Prior to joining AcademyHealth, Susan served as a Consultant with Health Systems participating in the New York State Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) Program where she assessed current primary care approaches to chronic disease management, as well as, quality improvement efforts in care management to identify gaps and best practices that would inform recommendations for improvements across the health system’s practices. Earlier, in her career, she worked as a Senior Health Policy Analyst with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Division of Health Care Finance and Policy and as a Consultant with the Advisory Board’s Financial Leadership Council. She also worked as a Care Coordinator with Evergreen Healthcare’s Evergreen Care Network. She received her B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Sociology and Women’s Studies from Trinity College and her M.P.P and M.S.W. from the University of Michigan. Most recently, she completed a Professional Program in Health Advocacy at the University of California, Berkeley.

Authored by Susan Kennedy, M.P.P., M.S.W.


Four Elements that Influence Payment Reform for Population Health

AcademyHealth's Payment Reform for Population Health team identified four major element domains that influence the conditions and collaborations associated with how health care purchasers, plans, and providers might support strategies for sustainable funding and financing activities and infrastructure that can bolster non-clinical community-wide population health.

Payment Reform for Population Health

With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, AcademyHealth is leading the Payment Reform for Population Health initiative to examine the opportunities through which the payment system can support population health.

Through commissioned research, Guiding Committee insights, stakeholder interviews, literature reviews, and subcontracted collaborative activities, AcademyHealth identified many challenges and barriers to linking the health care payment system to community-wide population health. Specifically, AcademyHealth supported activities to overcome barriers and identify the facilitators that enable community health-focused payment models to thrive.

Project Learnings

The project team identified four major foundational elements that influence how health care purchasers, plans, and providers consider supporting sustainable funding and financing activities and infrastructure that can bolster community-wide population health. These findings are illustrated in this infographic and supported by the collaborative research projects and related reports listed below.

P4PH Infographic Snapshot

Case Studies on the Role of the Health System in Addressing Social Determinants of Health
Dr. Jean McGuire and colleagues at Northeastern University conducted four case studies of cross-sector community-level population health improvement efforts focused on addressing social determinants of health.

Workshop on Multi-Sector Collaboration to Improve Population Health
AcademyHealth and the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement (NRHI) hosted a two-day workshop that convened five multi-sector teams led by regional health improvement collaboratives (RHICs) along with content experts to discuss how innovative payment and financing models could incentivize both health care sector and their non-health care sector partners —e.g., transportation, housing, education - to improve community-wide population health. 

Medicaid Payment Strategies for Financing Upstream Prevention 
AcademyHealth is collaborating with Nemours Children’s Health System to provide technical support to three state Medicaid programs to identify and test approaches to financing upstream prevention and addressing social determinants of health.

Building Payment Models and Contracting Structures to Support Social Determinants of Health
AcademyHealth is supporting the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative to examine the use of innovative payment models and contracting arrangements to support non-clinical services that address social determinants of health.

Through the development of frameworks for risk-based payment models, Discern Health outlines two approaches for plans, provider and community-based organizations to align incentives to improve population health in this paper.


Medicaid Medical Directors Network (MMDN)

AcademyHealth manages this vibrant learning community and facilitates peer-to-peer learning and dialogue among senior clinical leaders of state Medicaid programs.

The Medicaid Medical Directors Network (MMDN) seeks to advance the health of Medicaid beneficiaries by providing a forum for senior clinical leaders to discuss their most pressing needs and share best practices. Facilitated by AcademyHealth, the MMDN conducts multistate projects on pressing topics, hosts yearly convenings, and leverages collective experience to support and advance both state and national work. Research and quality improvement projects span a range of topics relevant to improving care for Medicaid beneficiaries including studies on antipsychotic medication use in children and adolescents, hospital readmissions, and perinatal care. The MMDN focuses on the development and use of evidence-based medicine, measurement and improvement of health care quality, and the redesign of health care delivery systems. AcademyHealth assists in this by:

  • Creating and sustaining a vibrant learning community for State Medicaid Medical Directors and other senior clinical leaders to promote and share best practices for the medical direction of State Medicaid programs;
  • Facilitating the exchange of the network’s expertise and experience to Federal agencies and national organizations involved in creating policy or implementing programs; and
  • Assisting in the implementation of nationally significant multistate measurement and quality improvement projects.

As the professional home of the MMDN, AcademyHealth has maintained a strategic partnership with state Medicaid Medical Directors spanning more than a decade with support from various funders and partners including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

 Current Projects

  • Immunization Barriers in the United States: Targeting Medicaid Partnerships. Funded through a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cooperative agreement, this project seeks to understand and address barriers to improving immunization rates for children and pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid. AcademyHealth and the National Academy for State Health Policy, in collaboration with the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition, will work with a subset of MMDN states to identify and address barriers through the following activities:
    • Engaging with and facilitating collaboration among various pertinent state agencies;
    • Expanding state knowledge and understanding of challenges to increasing immunization efforts for children and pregnant women with Medicaid coverage;
    • Identifying and sharing best practices related to increasing immunizations and Immunization Information System s sustainability; and
    • Providing state support in developing and implementing applicable best practice strategies.