The Healthiest Health Care System by 2016

By Stephen L. Mansfield, PhD, FACHE, President and CEO, Methodist Health System

Health care reform is a buzzword these days. It can mean different things to different people and organizations. But at the end of the day, health care reform must result in a fundamental change to the way we deliver health care. We currently treat patients who are already ill. That system is no longer effective. We must shift our focus to one of prevention and wellness rather than treatment of acute illness.

In my view, President Obama missed an opportunity during the health care reform debate to say, “We are unhealthy as a nation, and we’re doing it to ourselves through diet and lack of exercise.” It would have been incredibly powerful for him to set a goal for our nation and say, “We’re going to be the healthiest nation on the globe by 2020 and here is how we are going to get there.”

This type of radical change requires a national momentum around personal accountability for health. If Methodist Health System is responsible for the health of the population around us, and the population has no accountability for their health, we will not be successful. We have to shift our focus further upstream. That probably starts with children: We are producing a generation of obese kids with the highest incidence of diabetes the nation has ever experienced. It’s like our ancestors used to say: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The cost of prevention is minuscule; the cost of treatment is enormous. We’ve got to get Americans focused on individual accountability of health.

At Methodist Health System, that personal accountability begins with our own employees. If we are in the business of health care, we have to become a healthy example for our patients and our community. A couple of years ago, I shared with our Board, leadership, and employees my goal that Methodist become the healthiest health system in America by 2016. It is a goal that is frankly easier for some than for others. But it is something we need to do and should do for ourselves and for one another.

Many of us chose our career paths to help others. So I have asked our entire Methodist team – over 6000 employees – to turn our attention to our own health and wellness. After all, it is Methodist’s mission to improve and save lives – in this case the lives of our employees.

How will we do it? For starters, we must each be accountable for our personal health. The costs for poor health are high, both in dollars and quality of life. But in a world where the new normal is to be overweight, out of shape, and out of breath, it is my vision that Methodist can be the shining exception.

It will take work, dedication, creativity, and persistence. Our paths to health may differ, but Methodist is willing to invest in each of our employees and help them along the way. From a pilot project for a medical home for our employees at greatest risk, to a personal wellness coach available to all employees, and incentives for us all to reach our health and wellness goals – Methodist is committed to becoming the gold standard for a healthy workplace. It is an investment we are glad to make, as I know it will pay dividends for our employees, our patients, and our community.

EOE/M/F/D/V

© Methodist Health System

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