At this special time in American history, the U.S. health care system is in a unique and opportune position. We have been given the mandate, the task, to strategically redesign how we identify and address the health issues of our citizens. Disease prevention and health promotion are now the new and timely foundations to how we do health in America.
Technology and treatment have provided marginally beneficial results to our national health profile and have been associated with astronomically high costs. Through the efforts of Hanne Tonnesen of the World Health Organization Health Promoting Hospital Network “clinical health promotion” is the new catch phrase for health rather than the usual jargon of “treatment” or “medical technology.”
The Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at WRI was created in September, 2008, formerly at Memorial Medical Center, the Conemaugh Health System - 1997-2008.The present and future work of the Center; along with the existing and exciting new local, regional, national and international partnerships, will serve as a model U.S. health program. This will occur at a time when other hospitals, small and large, are looking for that direction, leadership and vision. With a dedicated approach to prevention, health promotion and wellness we will be able to identify the positive changes in behavior and health for the citizens of our community as well as demonstrate a financial benefit to such activity. Using the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at WRI as a resource, hospitals are now in a position to serve as legitimate public health advocates for the communities they serve and have a return on investment in that effort.
Identifying public health professionals as co partners with our community and hospital based clinicians and administrators will exemplify a new kind of partnership needed to manage and direct our local and regional health care systems of the future. The development of evidenced based worksite wellness programs; use of health coaches as the new model for patient and employees health management support; and developing new and different public health alliances will allow for that direct community ownership of how we do health.
The marketing and public relations agenda of local hospitals should be based on how well they bring “health” to the communities they serve with “health” as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) - “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” A hospital based “Heart or Neuroscience” program must be community as well as hospital based; implying that we go much beyond treatment and technology, and honestly and deliberately work at improving the health and well-being of the patient. To accomplish this task these clinically oriented programs must mesh with the evidenced based health promotion programs that prevent these illnesses and work on developing processes to reduce patient health risks diminishing the need for future hospitalizations. It should then be a political priority to generate a physician fee for service reimbursement strategies and policies (as is the case in other developed countries) that is as dependent on health promotion and wellness as it is on treatment. WHO approved health promotion standards and guidelines are now available to assist us in defining, implementing and evaluating hospital based health promotion initiatives and the revenue and savings generated by such activity.
Political will and leadership, based on a population demanding a right to optimal health, will determine the future well being of our children and grandchildren. We have the opportunity to make that paradigm shift, from illness as being everywhere to health is everywhere and achievable. Health is now; it is only up to us to decide whether we have the fortitude and vision to have it come to pass. This World Health Organization Winter School 2009 will serve as a national resource to how we can better define “Health U.S.A.".
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