Grand challenges make for great discussion



I’m a little sad that we’re done facilitating a series of workshops with ASU’s College of Health Solutions (CHS). These sessions, intended to clarify some grand challenges that the College will work on for the next several years, produced some really interesting outcomes. Not only was the discussion robust, but the genuine passion and caring displayed by everyone involved was a joy to witness. Taking on Dean Deborah Helitzer’s vision, CHS faculty, staff, students, and community partners came together to brainstorm the big issues in health that warrant focus, energy, and resources in the coming years.

We held four sessions internal to the College, followed by one session with community stakeholders. Offering multiple sessions over the course of six weeks allowed us to capture a range of voices and perspectives. We guided participants through a process of individual ideation, small group discussion, and identifying common themes. Each group developed a few grand challenges out of this process. When we say grand challenges, we mean GRAND. These are critical issues that cross disciplinary boundaries and have far-reaching impacts — things like chronic disease, access to healthy food, and stigmas around mental health. Ultimately, each participant had the opportunity to vote on all of the grand challenges presented, allowing us to identify the top grand challenges from each session.

Characteristics of Grand Challenges

Community stakeholders

One of the coolest parts of this process was the inclusion of community stakeholders through a community ideation workshop. Dean Helitzer stopped by to greet everyone and kick off the session. It was a diverse group of healthcare industry professionals, non-profit innovators, deans and faculty from local community colleges, local government agency leaders… even the Deputy Chief of the Peoria Fire Department! There was such a wealth of experience and insight in this session, I was blown away.

Though each session had its own unique vibe and outcomes, great minds really do think alike. Overarching themes emerged as participants grappled with the future of health in our communities and beyond. Themes of access and equity appeared again and again on sticky notes and posters. Participants want early intervention based on Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) like education, income, and physical environment. They want all people to have access to quality and timely health care. They understand that health issues are interdependent, and that solving grand challenges will require interdisciplinary and collaborative efforts.

I am confident that the College of Health Solutions will do some amazing work with the insights and ideas brought to light during these sessions. I look forward to seeing all that is possible through their collaborative and intentional focus on grand challenges.