If I gave you a choice between connecting with your friends and neighbors or attending a meeting or reading a report, which would you choose? Probably getting together with your community.
Most of the time, when we get together with other people and come into contact with their respective talents and ideas, something new or different happens -– like a new understanding or a change in perspective. And it happens without an agenda or a report.
So when it comes to getting the most important things done, why do we put all our faith in meetings and reports instead?
Last Wednesday Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama’s new Secretary of Health and Human Services, met with a group of women small business owners at a knitting shop in Washington, D.C. The takeaway: the health care system does not work for women. The government issued a report.
This Wednesday, there was a discussion with all the provider stakeholders – physicians, deans of medical schools, CEOs of teaching hospitals and heads of medical societies. I’m sure there will be another report. Will touch points with stakeholders and reports bring us to solutions and positive change? Maybe, maybe not. “It’s certainly a better way to start,” we all seem to be saying.
Don’t get me wrong, given the choice between hanging out with friends and meeting the President, I — and everyone I know– would choose the President. He’s got the power. He’s the leader of the free world. He is an intriguing and thoughtful American character to boot. But, for all the power given to him by authority and position, how much power does he have to effect change? Even President Obama will agree that his power is limited.
On May 11, the president himself led a Health Care Summit at the White House, inviting representatives from the insurance industry, the provider community, and a few patient representatives. With great fanfare, the announcement was made of a commitment by all attendees to save $2 trillion in health care costs. But within days, the various industry players began mitigating and backing away from the announcement, citing a bushel basket of reasons.
So what’s Obama trying to do with all these meetings, and with the web site on which he solicits suggestions and support from the public?
The President and his team are pursuing a path of contemporary collaboration, launching a web site and adopting social media tools to engage constituents and “crowd source” a solution to a very difficult problem: How to reform the health care system. He’s certainly on the right track: there’s a large body of research pointing to both the wisdom of crowds and the success of communities who find their own solutions.
Note that last part: the success of communities who find their own solutions.
Fortunately, there’s a lot of precedent for this.
The most familiar examples of successful community efforts are community-based weight-loss programs, like Steps to a Healthy Rockland County, grief and divorce support groups, and faith-based support systems. And there are many more examples in which communities with a shared purpose pool their resources to become stronger.
As a community, we need to stop ceding our health to an outside industry, outsourcing our own maintenance, repair and longevity to doctors, hospital, and insurance companies.
Instead, we need to reframe the conversation, engaging our members and helping them come up with a pragmatic vision for how we stay healthy by educating each other, changing our personal behaviors, and partnering actively with the health care system.
This year, SLHI will continue to increase the will and capacity of individuals and communities to be well, stay well and contribute to the health and well-being of each other.