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Healthier Communities: Quality, Affordability, Sustainability

posted by Alicia Caramenico

on December 4, 2015

Today USA Today and Cigna hosted a forum on creating healthier communities, and one common theme rang true: We need health care, not sick care. Just take this statistic from Cigna: Although chronic diseases are preventable, four correctable health conditions (higher weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar) account for 50 percent of health care costs.

Cigna’s CEO David Cordani called upon three tools needed to improve health care, quality of life, affordability, and sustainability: Actively engaging individuals in managing their health, rewarding health care professionals for the value they drive, and using actionable information to identify and close gaps in care and deliver higher-quality services.

Illustrating how all three elements can work together to move the system from sick care to health care, Cordani explained how data shows expectant moms who are actively engaged with their doctor during pregnancy have a 50 percent higher chance of going full term, increasing the probability of a healthier baby.

The USA Today and Cigna forum also focused on the power of the community to improve public health.  In fact, most of what makes a person healthy doesn’t occur in the doctor’s office, said American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin, but rather in his or her community. “Public health is all hands on deck, all communities, all agencies,” added Richard Hamburg, deputy director of the Trust for America’s Health.

They highlighted how important it is to pay attention to the impact of social determinants on population health. “Your zip code is more of a factor of your health than genetics,” said Dr. Karen DeSalvo, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Social factors like housing instability, violence, income inequality, food insecurity, and chronic absenteeism from school are all important contributors to population health, the panelists noted. For instance, there’s a 10-year difference in life expectancy for those living just 20 miles away from where AHPA’s Benjamin lives. And homelessness takes 25 years off a person’s life, according to Rosanne Haggerty, CEO of Community Solutions.

So what can health care stakeholders do to build healthier communities and improve the health of the patients they serve? According to the forum participants, they need to use data in new ways and work together across sectors. “Data and teamwork are glue for healthier neighborhoods,” Haggerty said.