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Building A Healthy America, One Community At A Time

Posted Feb 05 2013 11:59am

From Your Health Journal…..From time to time, I get some great press releases / articles sent to me which addresses important health issues. I received this one today via email, and found it worthy of placing here. I hope you enjoy it.

Building A Healthy America, One Community At A Time

By Robert Carr MD, MPH, FACPM

news Americans are unhealthier and dying younger than 16 “peer” nations. That’s the news out of a recent report published by the National Academy of Sciences. According to the report, the United States, which spends more on health care per capita than any other country, ranks at or near the bottom when it comes to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

The findings are sobering, but not surprising to those of us who work in the health care industry. I’ve seen first-hand the disparities in health outcomes in the U.S. and how they often relate to a person’s race, where they live, or how much money they make.

I was particularly interested in the report because of a program I’ve been involved with at GlaxoSmithKline that is looking at how we can address the declining health of Americans. Our goal is to uncover innovative approaches and advance new ideas for improving the health of American communities. In healthillustrated one part of the program, GSK partnered with The Atlantic to underwrite “ A Conversation on Community Health ”, local programs that bring together people from across a community to identify new ways to work together to achieve our shared goal: to make our communities healthier.

Insights gained through the program will help inform how GSK engages with communities across the US in the future.

We’ve taken the program to two cities so far, and we heard many of the same things in both cities – Philadelphia and St. Louis:

1. Shared Vision: Put personal agenda’s aside for the common good of the issue at hand

2. Don’t Give Up: Do not let the severity of the situation lead to a sense of helplessness; the smallest increase can

3. Put Knowledge Into Action: Take the lessons learned from the experiences of others and use them to inform your approach

4. Identify Key Stakeholders: Bring the right people to the table, including community members, to participate

5. Stay at the Table: Stakeholders need to stay engaged and committed, even after funding runs out

6. Act Collectively: Again and Again we have heard the importance of collaboration. Move out of silos and build capacity to work together, and include members of the community

7. Prevention and Education are Key: Provide access to programs, activities and experiences that teach people how to take charge of their own care

8. Identify Incentives: Stakeholder incentives need to be aligned with the changes (prevention, collaboration, collective action, collective impact, etc.) they want to make

We are heading to our third city this week. The “Conversation on Community Health” events in Denver on Feb. 6 could be an interesting contrast to the discussions in Philadelphia and St. Louis. Denver is one of the healthiest cities in America, but it also has a growing obesity problem and increasing rates of substance abuse. Health officials, civic and business leaders, and policy makers struggle every day with this paradox. But there also seems to be a strong commitment to collaborate with businesses and other stakeholders to promote improved community health.

I am looking forward to the conversation in Denver and to continuing to learn more about an innovative and sustainable approach to overcoming the health barriers plaguing our communities.

If you are outside the Denver area, you can still join the conversation. The town hall will air online from 10:45 am – 1 pm MST on Wednesday, February 6th. You can also join the discussion or receive updates by following @GSKUS on Twitter–and using #HealthyCommunity to weigh in.

- Robert Carr, MD, MPH, FACPM, is Senior Vice President and Corporate Medical Director of GlaxoSmithKline, where he leads the worldwide Environment Health & Safety function for more than 100,000 employees. His primary focus is on enhancing health and sustainable performance of GSK’s workforce while ensuring zero harm to its people and the environment.

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