A community’s health should be viewed as its most precious asset. Yet there are significant gaps between how healthy central Illinois residents are and how healthy we could be. At every income and education level, our residents should be healthier. Many people with middle-class incomes and education die prematurely from preventable health issues, and for those with more limited income and education, health outcomes are far worse. This experience mirrors population health trends at the national level, despite breakthroughs in medical science and a $1 trillion increase in annual healthcare spending over the past decade. America is losing ground relative to other countries when it comes to health. At present, huge medical bills strain family and government budgets and threaten America’s global competiveness.
The health challenges facing central Illinois residents are being recognized during an unprecedented period of change and opportunity within the community health system. The healthcare environment is going through major transformations, not only due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, but also by the need to create more integrated approaches to providing clinical health services in a more efficient and effective manner. Furthermore, there is a growing recognition that the place where people live, learn, work and play is as important to health outcomes as medical intervention.
Subsequently, there is an increasing acknowledgement that, although accessible, high-quality medical care is crucial, a healthier central Illinois cannot be achieved solely through the clinical healthcare system. The principal solutions to our health challenges lie not in hospitals or physicians’ offices, but in our homes, schools, churches, worksites, parks, grocery stores, sidewalks and streets. Preventing disease and improving health is the most effective, common-sense approach to improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs. Prevention delivers real value as a cost-effective way to keep central Illinois residents healthy and improve their quality of life. Everyone wins when we prevent disease, rather than treating people after they are sick: healthcare costs go down, neighborhoods are healthier and provide more economic opportunity, and people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.
Building a healthier central Illinois that focuses on health promotion and prevention will require substantial collaboration among leaders across all sectors, including education, healthcare, business, labor, faith, media, philanthropy and government. The board of directors for the regional health improvement collaborative, Quality Quest for Health, has recognized the need to emphasize a community health system approach for health improvement through prevention health activities. It’s anticipated that Quality Quest can fulfill the role of a neutral convener in the engagement of a diverse, fragmented community health system within the region to achieve sustainable population health outcome improvement. Through partnerships with key stakeholders, Quality Quest can help foster a new, best-practice approach to health improvement within the region. iBi