SONOMA COUNTY – The council responsible for the recent launch of the iWalk initiative received funding this month for the creation of at least six more programs to transform the local primary care delivery system.

In about a month, the Sonoma Health Action council will release a request for proposals for up to eight year-and-a-half-long pilot programs called the Primary Care Medical Home Collaborative that will take place in the clinic, veterans, private and Kaiser health care systems. The project, which recently merged the efforts of co-health advocacy group, Sonoma Health Access Coalition, aims to create a replicable “medical home” model.

“Our goal is to move all of the county practices in every sector along a continuum of what is called a patient-centered medical home,” said Naomi Fuchs, Southwest Community Health Center chief executive officer and primary care design team leader.

The council recently received $138,000 in seed money for the project, which will be used primarily to fund a coordinator. The funding is provided through a grant applied for by the Redwood Community Health Coalition in July meant initially for the Access Coalition.

“Since a lot of the same players were involved in Health Action and SHAC, and the mission of the primary care work group aligned so closely with what SHAC was trying to do, we thought it made the most sense to merge the groups,” said RCHC spokesman Pedro Toledo.

The two bodies signed a memorandum of understanding last week and are now officially the same body. The grant provided by the California Endowment will also pay for additional meetings, which will continue through the year-and-half pilot. Ms. Fuchs said the work group is still pursing other modes of funding for the needed $250,000 to run the program for 18 months.

“We found that increasing access to care is not just about increasing the number of doctors but also about changing how we deliver the care,” Mr. Toledo said.

The primary care work group will also establish markers and collect patient data, measuring the effectiveness of each program against several general goals: to increase access through improved communication and innovative delivery models, better coordination across health care providers, more efficient use of medical staff and improving the relationship between the patient and their caregivers.

The group also plans to host a symposium reviewing the results of the collaborative at the conclusion of the pilot. Ultimately, the data from each facility will be used to create practices that can be used across all health care providers.

Also on the horizon, Health Action will launch a community garden and access to healthy food initiative called iGROW and the Food System Alliance. Other design teams are working to create healthy programs for schools and worksite wellness incentive projects.

In July, the financing strategy work group will present its initial sustainable funding plan. Preliminary budget forecasts estimate that Health Action will need about $2.5 million to $5 million annually to keep programs going once all have launched. In addition to grants from foundations, government, business and individuals, officials also discussed the possibility of a paid membership structure and collaboration with United Way fundraising.

Health Action was created by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in August 2007 as part of an extended effort to improve the health of Sonoma County residents and the delivery of that care. For more information, visit www.sonomahealthaction.org.