Editor’s note: You’ve heard of an Accountable Care Organization, haven’t you? Now read about a new initiative—an Accountable Care Community—in this northeastern Ohio city.

In response to chronic health conditions, the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron (ABIA), its founding members, and numerous community organizations have joined to launch a first-of-its-kind Accountable Care Community, which will use the full force of the Summit County, Ohio, community to combat the region’s health concerns.

The effort, focused on improving health status and health care delivery and lessening the burden of disease, was announced at a summit in June. The kick-off event gathered national and regional health and wellness thought-leaders to discuss the idea and to start to build the initial framework of a comprehensive approach to health promotion and disease prevention, access to care and services, and health care delivery. The project, launched by the ABIA, is striving to focus Akron-area public, private, and philanthropic resources toward achieving improvements in population health and to closing gaps in health delivery, through aligned or coordinated efforts and pioneering approaches.

The ABIA, a unique biomedical innovation institute, was founded in 2008 by Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron General Health System, Northeast Ohio Medical University, Summa Health System, the University of Akron, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which committed an initial $20 million grant to launch the collaboration. Through this support and the backing of the institute by the City of Akron (Ohio) and County of Summit (Ohio), the ABIA has provided the convergence force needed to align Akron’s diverse institutions that are involved in health.

In forming an Accountable Care Community in Akron, the ABIA aims to share resources and build stronger community coalitions that will create not only a healthier Northeast Ohio, but also a replicable model for other communities.

In response to the health needs of the local community as well as the goals set by Healthy People 2020, the Accountable Care Community initiative is focusing its efforts on chronic conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, asthma, and hypertension.

Buttressed by partnerships of diverse members working cooperatively for a common goal, the ABIA initiative strives to leverage Akron resources from multiple sources to achieve a greater impact on the health of the community than any one organization could have alone. The initiative’s success will be tied closely to the trust and cooperation of the partners, who by banding together should be able to achieve broader and more meaningful results.

The Accountable Care Community effort is at the forefront of developing healthier communities and has great importance in light of recent health care reforms at the national level, including the increasing prominence of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). The ABIA is taking the concept of ACOs a few steps farther by expanding it into the entire community by linking to and leveraging the joint ABIA-Wellness Council of Summit County. The council was created in 2010 as a way to unite multiple community sectors around a shared vision of optimum wellness for Summit County, Ohio, residents. By mobilizing diverse partners in coordinated and collaborative efforts, the Wellness Council, as a component of the Accountable Care Community, aims to improve the physical, social, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual health of the community.

One of the goals of this public-private-philanthropic coalition, the Accountable Care Community, is to avoid the expenditure of funds on overlapping programming and services. This broad-based coalition can monitor and streamline efforts across multiple sectors. The overall goal of the Accountable Care Community is to effect changes across the range of determinants of health (for example, income and social status, genetics, physical environment, and social support mechanisms) and to make community efforts more efficient by strengthening links between existing programs, capitalizing on resources, and building novel solutions to chronic health issues.

The ABIA hopes to provide a full spectrum including health promotion and disease prevention, access to health and social services, and health care delivery. We hope to achieve a unified approach to health promotion, provide residents with access to high-quality care and services, and design efficient care delivery models for the region. The Accountable Care Community initiative takes the concept of a coalition to a new level by drawing together a number of area entities in a comprehensive approach to sharing programming, resources, and personnel. This approach should achieve health improvement, close gaps in care delivery, and measure the effects of innovation. The Accountable Care Community coordinates health promotion and disease prevention services and manages chronic diseases through outreach to every community outpost that may affect the health of individual residents in the Akron area.

The initiative’s steering committee is developing a White Paper, expected to be released in September, to further guide the development and implementation of the Accountable Care Community. Ultimately, through that initiative, we hope to develop a sustainable health model for the Akron region that will lessen the burden of disease and achieve a level of success that can be replicated across the United States.