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St. Luke’s convenes community leaders to brainstorm homegrown solutions for a healthier Idaho

By Anita Kissee, News and Community
April 15, 2019
Keynote speaker B. Cameron Webb, M.D., J.D. challenged attendees to take risks and conjure up local solutions for inequity in the community.

The St. Luke’s Health System Summit took a new approach this year.

More than 300 community leaders and health care workers gathered in downtown Boise on April 9 to discuss the landscape of community health across the United States and in Idaho.

Attendees were challenged to brainstorm innovative solutions that could have an impact close to home and put the “Better Together” theme to work by taking part in a hands-on workshop to outline meaningful next steps toward the community’s overall health.

“We are making remarkable strides when it comes to medical cures and advances, but overall health has plateaued, even slipped. America’s longevity has declined right along with quality-of-life measurements. Depression and anxiety are on the rise. These distressing patterns are mirrored in Idaho, as well,” said Lyle Nelson, St. Luke’s Health System administrator for community health.

“While the trends are alarming, we believe we can change their trajectory, and wanted to convene a coalition of collaborative leaders who are capable and motivated.”

Keynote speaker B. Cameron Webb, M.D., J.D., serves as director of health policy and equity, assistant professor of medicine and assistant professor of public health sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. In his keynote speech, he focused on the potential for equity as a counter-measure to social determinants that leave many community members disadvantaged.

“We know that genes don’t determine all of your health. We know that health care doesn’t determine all of your health,” Dr. Webb said. “We know that somewhere between 30 percent and 60 percent of your health outcomes, whether it’s morbidity or mortality, is determined by the social, economic and behavioral factors in places where we are born, grow, live, learn, eat, play and pray.”

Through his leadership experience, he’s seen the power of purposeful partnerships to create healthier communities for everyone.

“Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible,” Dr. Webb said, encouraging attendees to learn the needs of their communities, lean on novel partners and lead into uncharted territory to address health issues.

“You have to be willing to take risks. You are not going to have the kind of impact you want, you’re not going to fix outsized problems, with yesterday’s solutions,” Dr. Webb added.

Local non-profit leaders also talked about health innovations already happening. About 7,000 not-for-profit organizations are registered in Idaho, and many are teaming up to be catalysts for change.

Following Dr. Webb’s keynote presentation, a panel of six local leaders shared insights into improving community health and building effective partnerships in Idaho.

The panelists were Roger Quarles, executive director of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation; Dr. Jeff Fox, president of the College of Southern Idaho; Dr. Nikki Zogg, director of Southwest District Health; Wyatt Schroeder, director of community partnerships at the City of Boise; Dr. Deborah Robertson, emergency physician at St. Luke’s Wood River; and Dianne Robinson, registered nurse at St. Luke’s McCall.

"When it comes to improving community health," Dr. Fox said, “It’s not just the (medical) providers’ responsibility to make a difference. It’s not just insurers’ responsibility to make a difference. It’s the community’s responsibility to talk about wellness and opportunities to engage in your own health care. That also extends into engaging in the community.”

“I believe we’re called to make a mind shift,” St. Luke’s Health System President and CEO Dr. David Pate told the crowd. “What would happen if, ‘Yeah, but,’ became ‘Yes, and… Yes, and we can join you in doing that. Yes, and by getting creative, this also can happen.’”

"Community health to me means, we know each other, we help each other and we work together to solve those problems,” Quarles said.

About The Author

Anita Kisseé is the Treasure Valley public relations manager for St. Luke’s Health System.