This post originally appeared January 31st on the Action for Better Healthcare blog. It is written by CIL friend Lowell Kruse, Former CEO of Heartland Health and outstanding integrative leader around the challenging healthcare issues of our time.
The mayor of Kansas City, Kansas, is on to something big! While people living in his community have access to one of the finest hospitals in the country, the county was coming up dead last among the state's rigorous analysis of health measurements and mayor Joe Reardon was determined to figure out why.
Here is how Scientific American recently reported what the mayor determined:
The answer, Mayor Reardon discovered as he delved into the statistics behind the claim, is that proximity to fine hospitals and first-rate doctors is only one of many factors - and not always the most important - determining how long people live and how vulnerable they are to serious illness. Evidence collected by public health experts over the past few decades repeatedly shows that less obvious forces, including proper diet and exercise, higher levels of education, good jobs, greater neighborhood safety, and underlying support from family and friends, provide a powerful, and often unappreciated, boost to a community's health and well-being. By the same token, studies demonstrate, a poor showing in any of these areas can sink the health of individuals or of communities - even if they have access to topflight medical facilities.
This is something that some of us in healthcare have known for a while now. The real question is how do we identify, educate, encourage and support a new generation of "Joe Reardons" from the leadership of all the sectors that make up our communities? I think part of the answer is that the issue has to become so big and so threatening to the future of our country that you can't ignore it. Check that one off the list because we're already there!
Community health projects are now working on bringing some of these hidden health factors to light. As a result, elected officials, civic leaders and community groups are able to take concrete steps that can improve the health of local residents. This is such important work.
You can read more about how Kansas City, Kansas, is working to improve the health of its residents by reading the full January Scientific American article.
We need every city in America looking at the health of their communities this way.