In Summit County, as elsewhere, the rising cost of health care has put a premium on finding more effective ways for entire communities, not just individuals, to improve health and prevent illnesses. It may strike some residents as odd that a team of local officials spent time recently in Cuba to learn something about health care.

But with meager resources, the island nation manages to support a primary-care system whose first priorities are disease prevention and the wellness of the general population. Those are the same priorities Summit County’s civic and health leaders have been striving to accomplish. Insights the team acquired from the trip could prove valuable additions to the extensive groundwork undertaken toward the goals.

In the past few years, a sense of shared responsibility has emerged in the county, along with a model partnership comprising the county’s three health systems, local governments, two universities, dozens of social service agencies and the Austen BioInnovation Institute. The many factors that affect population health have been identified and the data compiled of the health patterns, needs and resources in the area.

The county also has developed the Accountable Care Community initiative, an innovative model to promote a healthy population. The hard work of generating momentum for a transformation has been done, the stage set for applying the knowledge gained. The difficult challenge now is to ensure the momentum is not lost.