Hartnett Marketing Solutions



Marketing Community Health: Move from “What Was” to “What Will Be”

As a marketer, how do you: Communicate the benefits of community health? Shine as a supporter of wellness? Prepare for population health management?

With health reform, changes in coverage will drive changes in utilization. Where the focus was on individual procedures, clinical service lines and increasing volume to drive revenue; the focus will be on health risks associated with a given population, wellness and preventative services, and opportunities to improve health and reduce costs. This creates significant business challenges, not the least of which is the current status of your community’s health.

In Pensacola, Florida the results of the most recent community health assessment were dismal. There is no need to go into the local specifics, since you know that if you’ve seen one community; you’ve seen one community. The healthcare challenge is that no one organization owns the problems and no one organization will be able to fix them; it will take a village.

So, how can marketers increase the effectiveness of efforts to engage people in improving health? How do we move healthcare organizations, employers and patients to become partners in health? One way to begin is by holding a Community Health Summit.

Recently in Pensacola the Partnership for a Healthy Community sponsored a Community Health Summit. Participants were leaders from area hospitals, area governments, businesses, education, churches and other service organizations. The Summit’s stated objectives for each participant:

  • Understand how community health status affects my organization and the local economy.
  • Understand the business model for supporting and engaging in initiatives that impact the three areas identified as the top local health priorities.
  • Commit to participate as an organization and collaboratively with others in activities and interventions that lead to improvement in health status for area residents.

“Poor health negatively affects area businesses, with reduced worker productivity, higher rates of absenteeism and high medical benefit costs,” says David Sjoberg, President of the Partnership for a Healthy Community.

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” It was a wake-up call when Susan Turner, MD and Associate Director of the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County stated that health is 30% genetics and 70% poverty, education, race/ethnicity, where we live, and personal choices.

The “Value Equation: The Cost of Poor Health & Return on Investment for Improving Health Status” was the focus for Rick Harper, Ph.D., Director of University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement. He provided in-depth data highlighting the fact that health indicators are highly correlated with economic status. A few of Dr. Harper’s words to live by:

  • Pick your parents well, because demography is destiny.
  • If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.
  • Problems are often cheaper to fix before they become problems.
  • Health care outcomes are part of the social and economic fabric of our community. Healthy communities are characterized by:
    • higher wages,
    • better access to insurance,
    • better nutrition,
    • less smoking,
    • less unprotected sex.

Dr. Roderick King, Executive Director of the Florida Public Health Institute, feels innovation is actually the implementation; moving from talk to action. He stressed the need for high alignment across multiple sectors and the need to meet people where they are: where they live, work, play, worship.

The Summit got people from different sectors of the community talking, and began the process of creating a common language and understanding of issues. As a follow-up to the summit, community work groups were created for each of three areas identified as targets for local health improvement: curbing tobacco use, reducing obesity, and helping people better manage their health. It’s important to keep in mind that while communities likely have many issues, you can’t effectively address a large number of issues at the same time. You’ve got to narrow the focus to one, two or three.

Through leadership and partnerships, we can strengthen our own organizations and improve the health and quality of life for the entire community. As Margaret Mead is believed to have said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”



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