About Innovations

Public health innovation refers to the creation and implementation of a novel process, policy, product, program, or system leading to improvements that impact health and equity. Tenets of public health innovation include the following:

  • It is an ongoing, systematic process that can generate incremental or radical change.
  • It requires both collaboration with diverse team members and partners and co-production with people with lived experience who will be affected by the results of the innovation.
  • It is an open process lending itself to adaptation or replication.
Innovation Spectrum

To view the background of our draft definition of public health innovation, download Innovation in Governmental Public Health: Building a Roadmap.

As the world changes, public health must adapt to address emerging community needs, often requiring appropriate infrastructure to be in place, real time surveillance and the ability to respond, and the inclusion of new or existing cross-sector partnerships. A culture that supports innovation allows health departments to make the most of new opportunities for collaboration. There are many common barriers to public health innovation, including budget cuts, outdated technology, and siloed workflows and data. However, there are bright spots of successful innovations in health departments across the country. PHNCI is gathering and sharing these stories of health departments’ innovations that demonstrate the characteristics described above to inspire others to pursue innovation in their own departments. We encourage you to read these stories, and even contact the authors, for inspiration and motivation to implement innovation in your own health department.

Perhaps your organization is ready to undertake your innovation journey and are looking for practical guidance on how to begin. PHNCI, together with the Alliance for Innovation, developed the Public Health Innovation Playbook, an interactive website designed to do just that.

With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, PHNCI awarded $1.55 million to nine agencies implementing cross-sector innovations in health equity, data collection and analytics, health in all policies, systems redesign, and access to services. Hear from three grantees as they describe how their public health innovations are positively impacting the communities they serve.