A Publication of WTVP

Today, there is a growing recognition that we need to approach health differently.

As central Illinois seeks ways to regain our economic footing, everyone should be reminded of the fact that the region’s collective health bears both an economic and a human cost. Poor health of a population exerts a tremendous influence on employment rates, interest costs and other tangible factors that ultimately affect the ability to maintain a strong regional economic position.

Chronic Disease and Behavioral Choices
Chronic disease affects health and quality of life, but it is also a major driver of healthcare costs—and has a related impact on business for issues like absenteeism and productivity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic disease accounts for approximately 75 percent of the nation’s aggregate healthcare spending—an estimated $5,300 per person in the U.S. each year. In terms of public insurance, treatment of chronic disease constitutes an even larger proportion of spending—96 cents per dollar for Medicare and 83 cents per dollar for Medicaid.

Behavioral choices that result in an increased incidence of chronic disease are also extremely costly in terms of the affordability of healthcare coverage. According to the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, health insurance premiums for employer-sponsored family coverage have increased by 87 percent since 2000. Healthcare costs for people with a chronic condition average $6,032 annually—five times higher than for those without such a condition.

As the local population gets older and more people are categorized as “high-risk” for multiple chronic diseases, it’s important to recognize that an individual’s choices have an impact, as well as where they live, work and attend school. Risky behaviors, such as a poor diet, lack of physical activity, use of tobacco, and ignoring known risks like family history, can result in a dramatic increase in chronic conditions.

Health Challenges and Comprehensive Prevention
Locally, our hospitals have conducted the first generation of the federally-mandated Community Health Needs Assessment. This assessment confirms the profound health challenges faced by our community. Furthermore, an in-depth analysis of the data within the local hospital community assessment indicates significant health disparities in the region, where inequities in policies and practices yield social, economic and physical conditions that present immense obstacles to improved health. These issues are driven by determinants that are beyond the capabilities of traditional healthcare provider organizations.

Today, there is a growing recognition that we need to approach health differently. In the “Affordable Care Act era,” hospital leadership, health and human service organizations, and policymakers are steadily changing the way they define and promote health. There’s greater recognition that comprehensive prevention efforts can have far-reaching effects. There is a better understanding that fostering health across a community requires more than healthcare; it requires engagement with all of the community determinants of health. Studies confirm that both our environments and the behaviors they foster have more influence over our health than medical care. Health requires communities that are clean and safe. It requires opportunities for residents to do meaningful work. It depends on community members having strong social connections and working together to build and maintain sustainable solutions to local problems.

A Vision for Change
In early 2013, the board of directors of Quality Quest for Health of Illinois restructured the not-for-profit organization with a new vision to facilitate local efforts to become one of the healthiest regions in the country. This vision was formulated with an appreciation that we need to approach community health improvement efforts collaboratively, as one steward among many others with a responsibility to improve health. Quality Quest leadership believes the recently published hospital community health needs assessment provides the foundation to create a measurably healthier population and foster healthier behaviors by engaging key community stakeholders in addressing our health challenges. Quality Quest views itself as a neutral, capable and trusted agent for change. Our vision for success is as follows:

Quality Quest believes the time is right for the public health and prevention professionals to engage healthcare providers to take a fresh look at what we do and how we do it. We will continue to learn together as we strive to achieve healthier people in healthier communities. iBi

Greg Chance is the managing director of Quality Quest for Health of Illinois. For more information regarding community collaboration for a healthier central Illinois, contact him at [email protected].