My radio station of choice hosts a game with listeners every afternoon called "My Three Songs." A listener submits three songs linked by a common theme and other listeners call in to guess the theme for a prize. It is an enjoyable game, and frankly, is about all the mental challenge I can handle after a day of analyzing state health policy or engaging with partners to understand and strategize about community health.
Recently back from the Colorado Health Symposium, I have been reflecting on all that we learned from the wide range of presenters. Coincidentally, three comments (paraphrased from my notes) really stood out to me:
Failure to engage consumers and providers is the reason we aren't making progress towards a more effective health care system.
-- Alan Weil, Executive Director, National Academy for State Health Policy
Understanding of the other is the fundamental challenge we face.
-- Dr. Manuel Pastor, Director, Environmental & Regional Equity Program, University of Southern California
We must come to an agreement about the degree of variation in life chances that we consider to be unacceptable and then pursue policies to achieve a level of variation we can tolerate.
-- Dr. Len Nichols, Director, Center for Health Policy Research & Ethics, George Mason University
On the surface, these quotes don't seem to have much in common. One is explicitly about changing the receipt and delivery of health care services, another is a broader comment about our current socio-political times, and the last is about policymaking. As in the radio contest though, they all share a common theme: they are all about PEOPLE. They remind us that health is not institutions, models, and policies--health is human.
These quotes reinforce three principles of health systems change that we at CCMU believe wholeheartedly. The first is that to truly create change in our health care systems we must remember that patients and providers are people first. And that as people, patients and providers have aspirations, perspectives, and challenges that we must account for as we engage in our efforts to improve the health care system.
Secondly, we must recognize that because health is a deeply personal matter, we can't assume everyone experiences health just like we do. We must find ways to have empathy, to be welcoming and respectful and authentic as we seek to understand how others experience health or approach solving the challenges we face in health.
And finally, we must recognize and address the variances in our society that give people different chances of living a healthy life. In the past month CCMU released a series of issue briefs that highlight some of the current health disparities that exist. We hope that these documents can serve as starting point for this important discussion.
If you feel strongly, like we do, that health is all about PEOPLE, and that that should be the common theme of health care systems change, then join the conversation at our luncheon this September 10. With a shared commitment to putting people first, we believe we can move forward as a state towards a health care system that works for all Coloradans.