This region, unique because it consists of three distinctly different political jurisdictions, has striking similarities in health disparities experienced by lower-income residents living in underserved communities throughout the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland. The Regional Primary Care Coalition began in 2001 as a series of conversations among local funders and leaders in primary health care concerned with improving the health status of vulnerable populations in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. Funders sought to gain a more in-depth understanding of regional health issues and persistent disparities associated with race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Primary health care leadership sought to learn how to build, scale and sustain safety-net health services capable of addressing the complex health needs of the region’s diverse, low-income population.
RPCC grew organically, building on the trust developed among participants, and recognition of the importance of looking and thinking regionally, expanding the shared knowledge base, and leveraging lessons learned in each jurisdiction for the benefit of the region. What began as a conversation grew into an active collaboration and learning community involving the region’s primary health care coalitions, the clinics they represent, and local philanthropies. As the health care environment changed, RPCC’s role and mission evolved. Recognizing that underlying factors influence health and quality of life more than access to care, RPCC broadened its focus and engaged new partners in its efforts to improve population health. Commitment to health equity and elimination of health disparities related to race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status remains a primary value underlying RPCC’s work.
RPCC’s core functions are to (1) convene health care leaders, funders and other stakeholders from across the region; (2) promote a regional perspective on population health and monitor emerging regional health issues; (3) facilitate information sharing and learning related to innovations in health policy and practice; and (4) build cross-sector understanding and collaboration to enable communities to address health disparities.
The substance of RPCC’s work has evolved over time, reflecting changes in health policy, the local health care environment and new challenges faced by low-income and vulnerable populations throughout the region. RPCC has sought to encourage innovation and strengthen coordinated community-based approaches to health care across all jurisdictions. The issues on which it focused ranged from health care access to health care quality; specialty care and pharmaceutical access; behavioral health integration; health information technology, health care reform, patient engagement and the need for regional data to support regional population health improvement. More recently, RPCC has focused on population health issues including immigrant health, intersection of health with determinants like safe and affordable housing, emerging opioid epidemic and the uncertainty related to the future of health coverage and healthcare in the current environment.