This post was written by Gretchen Hammer, a previous member of our team.
I love my job. Where else could I see so much variety in my day-to-day work? Over the last month I have spent hours absorbed in conversation with low-income and vulnerable Coloradans, as they share about their health care experiences and talk about their aspirations for a health care system that meets their needs. I've testified before state legislators at the Capitol and addressed a conference full of health care finance experts. I also spent time at the table with health care leaders and community agencies to develop a shared vision for health in a local community.
And that was just January.
As I catch my breath now that it is February (thank goodness!), I am struck by the symmetry of these conversations despite their vastly different participants. The formal definition of symmetry is, "correspondence in size, form, and arrangement of parts on opposite sides of a plane or line." After spending time with each of these groups, I can assure you, they may be operating in different planes, but they aspire to many of the same things.
In nearly all of these conversations, there was a sincere and intense focus on the need for trusted human connections to be at the core of health care. They reaffirmed for me the sacredness of the trusting relationship when dealing with health issues or making important health care decisions.
At the same time, there is the recognition of the importance of matching health care resources to health care needs. Many stories that I heard over the last month focused on the cascade of negative consequences that follow a mismatch between available services and needs. Examples included physical injuries that, without access to treatment, led to unemployment and further injury, and stories of families who end up deeply immersed in a variety of systems and services that could have been avoided had a single resource been available at the point of need.
Finally, there was the common recognition that a person's health is impacted by their ability to manage life's challenges, navigate a complex health care system, and do things that make a person feel healthy--like eat well and exercise. People may not use the term "social determinants of health," but they get it.
So what does this all mean for our work at CCMU? To be honest, it may take a few months for these learnings to sink in and penetrate our work. However, I can say that while many of the things I heard last month made me sad, they also strengthened my belief in humanity. Many things I heard made me nervous about challenges we face as we implement health reform and community change, but also steeled my resolve to keep on working. And perhaps, most importantly, my work in January reminded me how important it is to listen--especially to those you work on behalf of.