QI Innovator Award Winner - April Harris, MPH, CHES

Friday, July 25, 2014 - Earlier this year, we invited public health practitioners and members of the PHQIX community to nominate innovative QI practitioners to recognize their hard work in championing a QI effort and culture. We received such wonderful nominations that we couldn’t pick just one winner! We're announcing one winner at a time, starting with Ms. April Harris, from Three Rivers District Health Department (TRDHD) in Kentucky. Congratulations, April! We are so pleased to honor you as a QI innovator!  

What makes April Harris a QI innovator?

April Harris - QI Innovator Award winner

April Harris, the first QI Coordinator of her agency, TRDHD, exudes professionalism and diligently promotes QI in public health. One of her agency’s projects, the Three Rivers Thriller, received national attention. The QI team dressed as zombies to dramatize an introduction to the decision-making matrix, a QI tool. Staff members used the matrix to select the best weapon to ward off the zombies. April’s QI leadership has contributed to other successful projects, which include restructuring the agency’s shared network drive through a Kaizen event, increased participation in Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships, and a revised National Public Health Performance Standards Program facilitation.

April, who is also TRDHD’s Accreditation Coordinator, organized the first mock site visit and documentation review in the accreditation process, which assisted TRDHD in achieving national accreditation in the first cohort. She created a format that trains other accreditation coordinators and provides valuable feedback for health departments in the documentation review phase of the process. The mock site visit format has been emulated across Kentucky and in state and local health departments across the country. April’s passion, enthusiasm, and excitement about public health and QI are contagious. She is progressive in thinking of new ways to incorporate QI into her agency’s processes and programs, and she is always willing to share ideas or lessons learned with others. Her unique way of approaching challenges attests to her motivation and highlights the value of her efforts.

We asked April to share some insights regarding challenges encountered, lessons learned, and advice about public health QI. Here's what she had to say:

Q: Describe one challenge you have encountered in conducting QI in public health and how you worked to overcome that challenge.

A: Getting everyone involved and understanding that QI happens every day has been a challenge. One way I’ve worked to overcome the myth that QI equates “big projects” is posting QI storyboards and flowcharts in commonly seen areas of our health departments. This helps to reinforce our culture of quality improvement while educating our staff about projects and outcomes.

Q: What is one key lesson you have learned in your experience implementing public health QI initiatives?

A: Celebrate successes and make it fun (which can be applied to anything)! We devote time at each staff meeting to discuss quality improvement projects and recognize those that have had positive results. The TRDHD staff have come to expect skits, prizes, and off-the-wall antics to keep everyone engaged and having a good time with QI.

Q: What advice would you give to public health practitioners who are new to QI?

A: Start with Domain 9 in PHAB’s Standards and Measures—it will direct you to the policies, processes, and trainings that your agencies can work towards in your QI journey. Also, get in touch with peers that are seasoned in QI and network about ideas and projects.

Thank you, April, for sharing your insights, for inspiring other public health QI practitioners, and for being a member of the PHQIX community! 



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Grace Gorenflo's picture
Submitted by Grace Gorenflo on

April has made numerous contributions to the national public health community and it's exciting to see that she is the inaugural innovator!

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