October 19, 2020

KPWHRI to lead network to address social needs

Katie Coleman, MSPH, and Cara Lewis, PhD, are the new co-directors of SONNET.

Katie Coleman and Cara Lewis will co-direct a national network that supports work to address members’ social health

Two researchers from Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute will co-direct a national network that supports Kaiser Permanente initiatives aimed at addressing members’ social needs. Cara C. Lewis, PhD, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute associate investigator, and Katie Coleman, MSPH, director of the KPWHRI MacColl Center for Health Care Innovation and Kaiser Permanente Washington’s Learning Health System Program, are the new co-directors of SONNET, the Social Needs Network for Evaluation and Translation.

Supported by Kaiser Permanente’s National Community Health Program, SONNET helps Kaiser Permanente researchers, leaders, and medical professionals design, evaluate, and learn from initiatives that address essential needs such as social connection, food, housing, and transportation. SONNET comprises experts, including from KPWHRI, with experience in interventions that help members get assistance in these areas.

“This focus on social needs is part of the Kaiser Permanente commitment to health equity, particularly identifying and understanding root causes of health disparities,” says Rita Mangione-Smith, MD, MPH, KPWHRI executive director and Kaiser Permanente Washington vice president for research and health care innovation. “Katie and Cara have demonstrated that commitment through their research and leadership. They’re an excellent choice to lead SONNET and advance its vital work.”

SONNET supports efforts such as Thrive Local, a national Kaiser Permanente initiative to connect members with community services. SONNET serves these initiatives, with more than $10 million in funding so far, with rigorous evaluations to promote their success and sustainability. SONNET is a learning community that ensures that lessons from one program are used to optimize its impact and shared to inform development of others.

Expertise in development, implementation, and evaluation

Dr. Lewis and Ms. Coleman bring unique and complementary expertise to the SONNET directorship. In addition to her role at the MacColl Center, Ms. Coleman directs the Learning Health System Program, overseeing collaborations between KPWHRI and the delivery system, including supporting the design and leading the evaluation of two new primary care clinics. From years of work designing, implementing and evaluating large-scale health system transformations as a MacColl researcher, she brings skills in developing and maintaining robust connections with community partners and large and small health care organizations, including federally qualified health centers. “This is an exciting time to take on this new leadership role as we see awareness growing inside and outside of Kaiser Permanente that social needs can have a profound impact on people’s lives,” Ms. Coleman says. “Cara and I will do our best to support SONNET as we partner with the community to advance best practices in social health.”  

Dr. Lewis brings expertise in implementation research with a focus on measurement, rapid evidence reviews, pragmatic methods, and survey research. She has extensive experience guiding large networks and programs, for example as former president of the international Society for Implementation Research Collaboration (SIRC). She has served as a SONNET steering committee member since its inception. With Bianca DiJulio, KPWRHI Survey Research Program manager, Dr. Lewis led a national survey of more than 10,000 Kaiser Permanente members to measure prevalence of social risk factors. Their findings will include the effect of COVID-19 on these risk factors. “Katie and I are eager to bring what we’ve learned about best practices in team science to SONNET,” she says. “The MacColl Center and KPWHRI will serve SONNET with our focus on social health needs and experience in translating research to practice, using data to inform action, and collaborating with clinical leaders and community partners.”

Ms. Coleman and Dr. Lewis begin their term as co-directors in early 2021, taking over from John Steiner, MD, MPH, who helped found SONNET and has been director since its launch in 2017.

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