A road map to a healthier state

By Daniel Weintraub
California Health Report

A task force appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown has laid out a road map for California to become the healthiest state in the nation by 2022.

The ten-year plan establishes 39 specific, measurable goals from cradle to grave. They range from infant mortality and childhood obesity to the management of chronic disease, preventable hospitalizations and the number of terminally ill people using hospice care.

Diana Dooley, secretary of Health and Welfare for Brown, said the numerical goals are important because they bring a focus and definition to what it means for the people of a state to be healthier.

“We believe that what you measure matters,” she said. “Picking the right measurement to show we are on a path to becoming healthier was the first charge of the task force.”

This is the framework for a new report that lays out a roadmap toward making California the healthiest state in the nation within 10 years.

More broadly, the group’s watchword was what it called a “triple aim” – better health, better health care and lower costs.

“We can have it all,” said Dave Regan, a member of the task force and president of the Service Employees International Union United Health Care Workers. “But we can’t have it unless literally millions of people start behaving differently than they are behaving now. Unless we build a culture of health in California that is not just public relations…but is a deep commitment, and not just something that resides in state government but resides in neighborhoods, communities, businesses, in civil society, we will not get there.”

The report, six months in the making, differs from past efforts in a few key respects.

First, it recognizes that health does not begin with health care but with healthy living and the conditions that make that possible. Many of the goals are aimed at keeping people healthy so they never enter the health care system.

Second, the report focuses on ethnic and other disparities in health outcomes. For each of the 39 measures, the goal for the entire state in 10 years is the current performance of the group that is doing the best on that measure.

Finally, the report does not make any one person or institution responsible for its implementation. That could be a weakness, since no one, in the end, can be held accountable for the results.

But task force members say it will actually be a strength, because the idea is to encourage and empower communities, employers, unions and individuals to take matters into their own hands by doing whatever they can do to help those around them achieve the goals set out in the report.

Those actions will then be reported and shared on a web site that, in theory, will allow small successes to spread and grow into a statewide movement.

“Everybody came to this work committed to determining for themselves what they can do in their own environment,” Dooley said. “Everyone has a piece of this.”

To see a copy of the full report, go here.

Disclosure: The task force’s work was supported by a grant from The California Endowment, which is also a supporter of calhealthreport.org.

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