Wednesday, November 02, 2011

South Carolina on WIHI

Organizing for Health: A Story from South Carolina
November 3, 2011, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Eastern Time

Rick Foster, MD, Senior Vice President of Quality and Patient Safety, South Carolina Hospital Association

Kate B. Hilton,
Director, Organizing for Health; Principal in Practice for Leading Change at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University

Landis Landon,
President, Immaculate Merchant Services; Resident, Columbia, South Carolina

In August of this year, a very different sort of town hall meeting was held in Columbia, South Carolina. About 90 people who shared the zip code 29203 sat down to talk about the health issues they faced. The list was long: lack of dental care, colon cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, mental illness, low birth weight babies, and more. Any one of these issues is worthy of attention; indeed, in most parts of the US, you can find initiatives trying to either prevent or reduce the burden of specific diseases that affect specific individuals. But what if the approach was more comprehensive and more widespread – and, most importantly, engineered by the community itself? What if hundreds of people from across the community –representing neighborhoods and businesses and insurance companies and local hospitals and municipal offices and professional schools – all decided to band together to turn things around?

That’s what the people decided in Columbia, South Carolina, and WIHI is pleased to welcome to the program some of the key leaders behind the effort – Rick Foster, Kate Hilton, and Landis Landon – to describe their groundbreaking mobilization.

Some of the concepts and goals underpinning the Healthy South Carolina campaign are quite familiar, such as expanding the role of primary care and helping everyone become more physically active. What sets this initiative apart is the strategy. It starts with training some 300 leaders by the end of this year (2011). They’ll play several roles, but will focus in part on fanning out across Columbia, SC, to work directly with residents on creating pathways and programs to better health. There will also be a major emphasis on improving everyone’s health literacy and communication skills. And every part of the community’s health care delivery system is pledging, along with insurers, to engage in serious discussions about how to improve access to primary care, reduce reliance on emergency departments for non-urgent problems, and reduce costs.

Yes, it’s just the beginning stages and yes, it’s just one community. And no one knows whether this multi-year effort will succeed. Still, at a time when new models of better health, better health care, at reduced per capita costs, are badly needed, Healthy South Carolina is an initiative to root for, learn from, and watch. WIHI Host Madge Kaplan hopes you’ll join her and her guests on Nov 3. Invite someone from your community to tune in with you!  

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