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My Northfield Promise – Steve Underdahl

January 13, 2016

A profile picture of Mr. Underdahl.When I first came to town in 2013, Northfield Promise was one of the things in which Northfield Hospital & Clinics was already interested and involved. As a new CEO with lots of invitations to participate in different community initiatives, I found Northfield Promise was one of the first that seemed logical for me to get involved in.

The mission of “cradle to career” fits with a lot of what we’re understanding now in healthcare. When we think about what keeps a community healthy, a very small fraction of that happens at the doctor’s office or hospital. Social determinants of health – a meaningful education, or a healthy and secure childhood – go a long way to being healthy. That’s how Northfield Promise connects to our mission as a healthcare organization.

There are lots of organizations that tend to focus on their part of the elephant. Northfield Promise takes a broader perspective: It connects and facilitates a host of activities and organizations doing similar work. The secret sauce is this very engaged, multidisciplinary approach.

At first, I thought “every child, cradle to career” meant that Northfield Promise focused on academics, school and education. But it is a broader approach that includes physical, social and emotional well-being. It looks at how people live and function in our community, and all the aspects that roll into their ability to be successful.

The strategic and tactical methodology of Northfield Promise is great; the academic rigor behind projects has been impressive. It’s easy for community groups to get behind something that feels good and sounds intuitively right, but often no one puts the effort into knowing if we’re really making progress, are there tangential results or are our methods working. Northfield Promise puts great effort into defining what success looks like and how we achieve it. That’s very impressive.

I’m looking forward to watching some of these projects mature a bit and getting the mid-point and later data and analysis, so the Council of Champions can understand which of these efforts are working better than others. Were our hypotheses right, or do they need tweaking?

That’s what’s exciting: Not just declaring a desire to work on a project, but having data-oriented feedback loops built into it.

Northfield Promise in three words?
COLLABORATIVE. STRATEGIC. DATA-DRIVEN.

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