Insight by Chuck Gillespie, CEO National Wellness Institute
I read the article by Steven H. Woolf titled Social and Economic Policies Can Help Reverse Americans’ Declining Health. This is a well researched and written piece on the needs to rethink how health in the United States is derived. This article sparked me to write some insight that we must consider as we look to shift mindsets, behaviors, and practices.
Most of us have heard this comment many times. “Scientists have shown that the most powerful predictors of an individual’s health are education (life long learning), income (a cost of living wages based on where you live), employment (good job), housing (a safe place to live), and healthy neighborhoods (placemaking). The infrastructure outside individual homes shapes the community’s health: Our ZIP code is more important than our genetic code.” This was a quote from the article. Yet, our leaders continue to incorrectly assume that more health care insurance will solve the problem. This is been a proven falsehood as health care costs continue to skyrocket even though all Americans have been given access to health care insurance.
“The health of Americans depends on the actions—or inaction—of federal, state, and local governments to make health and well-being a priority and to fund the necessary infrastructure. Health is also shaped by the private sector and the decisions made by supermarkets, restaurants, manufacturers, builders, developers, investors, financial institutions, employers, unions, health care systems, and community organizations.” This quote emphasizes the need for funding Social Activation of Wellness strategies outlined in the report.
My favorite quote from this article was this one, “Meaningful change in the health of Americans requires new policies that target all of the drivers of health: not only health care but also education, economic stability, neighborhoods and environments, and social and community well-being.” The problem is that these issues are all very siloed and do not come together in policy discussions. Why? Because it is not politically advantageous and society relies too heavily on siloed expertise for each issue. Great leaders bring these issues together and realize the benefits.
The National Wellness Institute calls the need to bring everything together WellFinder (www.wellfinder.org). WellFinder provides the missing links to health and wellness support. In order to create a healthier society so people can thrive at home, at work, and in their communities, we begin with understanding the community (work, live, and play) itself. We then focus on ensuring that individual citizens have proper access to already existing programs and resources – most of which people do not know exist or they are too difficult to access.
Let’s Community Better!
Health and well-being infrastructure starts, sustains, and succeeds when it can be accomplished at the most local of levels, yet, there are a number of national and statewide policy barriers that prevent the local communities to succeed. In a poll conducted by the National Wellness Institute, the question was asked, “Health equity will be BEST solved…” 45% of the respondents said locally, while 25% said federally and 13% said regionally. The remaining 17% said they did not know.
It will likely take federal funds for local initiatives to deliver the most success, but the real issues are that we must stop thinking that insurance coverage and siloed issues will ever solve the problem. The United States has tried this for the last 50 years, and look at the outcomes. I believe we must not only follow the science but also follow the data. If the United States wants to solve their health problem, then it is time to socially activate multidimensional, multicultural high-level wellness strategies.