Working together as a healthy community

By Dr. Randy Wykoff • Oct 18, 2015 at 8:30 AM

Since the announcement of the proposed merger between Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System, there has been considerable discussion about the impact the merged systems could have on the overall health of the region.

Some people may be surprised to hear the health systems talking about promoting health and preventing disease, not just by new programs and activities that would happen within the new system itself, but also by actions and activities that would take place outside their four walls.

Why, some people might ask, are the health systems talking about actions that need to happen in the community and not just in their hospitals and clinics?

This discussion reflects the growing understanding of what are known as the “social determinants of health” or, more simply, “public health.”

Access to high quality and affordable health care (in physicians’ offices, in clinics and in hospitals) is absolutely essential to improving health in our region. Many of us wouldn’t be alive today if not for services provided by doctors, hospitals and clinics. Health care is essential, but it is not sufficient, to improving health in a region.

We are increasingly coming to understand that true, long-standing improvements in health come not just from good health care, but also from improving the overall conditions in which people live.