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NSHA’s change leaders putting pieces of provincial health care puzzle together

Meaghan Sim

Kristen Lipscombe

The health care system is like a massive, complicated puzzle, with individual pieces that change and grow over time. Those pieces must be strategically adjusted so that the big picture – providing high quality health care to patients – is always in sight.

Meaghan Sim is one of the puzzle masters for Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) and the corner she’s working on is a big one – population health. Or in her words, “keeping people outside of our organization well, but also attending to their immediate health care needs.”

A Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) health system impact post-doctoral fellow and registered dietitian, Sim is using her unique academic knowledge and experience in community-based practices to work with other change leaders across the organization in shaping what NSHA will look like well into the future.

She’s one of 46 fellows currently receiving funds from the CIHR to help advance health system transformation across the country. Sim’s focus is on “developing a policy framework to support a population health approach to health system planning” using evidence-based research and best practices, while also looking at Nova Scotia’s unique populations needs.

It’s a big piece of the NSHA puzzle and it’s about as complicated as it sounds.

“You get to go into this huge, leading organization in Nova Scotia – we are the legislated health care delivery system for the entire province,” Sim said, “and you have this latitude to really explore what the system is all about, and where you can begin to make in-roads in what you’re attempting to do.”

To break down the pieces and help visualize how they’ll best fit together, Sim has covered her office in big posters and bright post-its, each scrawled with notes in different coloured-markers; it’s an epic brainstorming session.

“There is no road map,” Dr. Sim said of creating a long-term population health vision for an organization that has only been in existence for a relatively short amount of time. “We have to create our own.”

It has been a mere three years since the province’s nine former district health authorities came together to form one provincial health care system, and the timely transition is no small task for change leaders such as Sim, who works jointly with NSHA and Dalhousie University’s healthy populations institute and faculty of health.

Part of her work is to strengthen NSHA’s relationships with various health care partners and stakeholders, including Dalhousie, in order to create more opportunities for collaboration in making Nova Scotia’s health care system stronger for generations to come.

“What is very important, I think within this role, is that you start to really network, and start to really understand what the system is all about and where does population health fit into all of that,” Sim said.

“That’s been my approach, talking to people; meeting as many people as I can,” she explained. “I’m trying to bring it all together.”

Sim’s also sharing what she learns in her NSHA role with a broader, national conversation on transition and transformations within health care systems.

“There’s so much to learn within this organization,” Dr. Sim said. “It’s huge, it’s vast, it’s complex, it’s changing – it’s new.”