Health is not just the responsibility of individuals – it’s a community affair.
That community is made up of companies, healthcare professionals and community leaders all working together to implement sustainable healthy practices in neighborhoods. That translates into lifestyle changes that will result in more tight-knit communities, fewer chronic illnesses and lower health care costs.
Strategies to make that collaboration a reality were the crux of the Health Alliance Plan’s (HAP) Corporate & Community Wellness Forum recently held at MGM Grand Detroit. More than 150 were in attendance.
They take health very seriously as you can tell from the picture above, which shows an audience stretch and exercise during the meeting.
Participants included the Michigan Wellness Council, Oakland County Department of Human Services, Come Play Detroit, Henry Ford Health System, National Services Organization (NSO), Michigan Fitness Foundation, and others.
“We wanted to take our wellness event, not just with our work sites, but (to the) community,” said Tom Spring, director of health engagement and wellbeing at HAP. Spring moderated the “Promoting Health Behavior Change in the Workplace” and “Creating and Sustaining Healthy Communities” panels.
In some ways, he added, workplace wellness programs are becoming a dime a dozen. “Are the programs ultimately without impact? The key is to make employee health and community health part of the business missions, part of the fabric.”
“Henry Ford has continually been focused on our community impact,” said Wright Lassiter III, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) and the keynote speaker. “Our vision statement is one person at a time. We really focus on being person-centric.”
Lassiter has a standup desk and a treadmill in his office and is known for bringing a strong culture of health. As a former athlete, Lassiter wants to bring that energy to HFHS (he came onboard in 2014). In fact, he wants to turn his 23,000 employees into wellness ambassadors.
“We continually tell ourselves we’re not doing enough,” he said. “One of our biggest challenges is, historically, we haven’t taken ownership of our own health. We’ve vested that in our physicians. Today that’s changing.”
The real impact, he suggested comes from communities.
“Clearly, communities are the fabric of our existence,” Lassiter said. “There’s nothing more fundamental to the success of the community than health and wellness. (It’s) right up there with education and economic development. If you don’t have a well-educated community, then you don’t have healthy communities. Whether you have five or 5,000 employees, whatever size it happens to be, focus on one person at a time.”
Even so, he sees some challenges, particularly with consumerism.
“No matter how good we’ve been in the past, we have to be more focused on consumer-centricity. We have to continue to work on affordability,” Lassiter said. “Our healthcare system as a whole is still too expensive for the healthcare consumer. When you think about healthcare debt being the primary cause of bankruptcy and high deductive insurance plans, we’ve got to continue to focus on how to make healthcare more affordable.”
Lassiter is a supporter of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but he recognizes some problematic areas.
“While the ACA clearly isn’t perfect, it has connected people to access to a healthcare system,” Lassiter said. “You look at how this country compares (to others), one of our key differences is we exclude people from the system. It (the ACA) has been very successful connecting people to the system. The areas where we are challenged are more so because of efforts to limit its effectiveness, as opposed to challenges with the ACA itself.”
Dr. Michael O’Donnell, editor-in-chief, American Journal of Health Promotion, provided the closing keynote and call to action.
“We are a community,” O’Donnell said. “We are part of the ecosystem. Any focus on one piece is not going to work.”
He added wellness behavior change can be attributed to increased awareness, finding ways to motivate individuals, teaching the necessary skills and creating opportunity.
“If anything, it’s about enhancing opportunities both in the workplace and our communities,” O’Donnell said.
– Photo credit: Paul Engstrom