TCAT hosts health roundtable
Published 8:03 am Friday, August 14, 2015
More than 50 people from throughout the region, representing a wide array of professions, gathered at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Elizabethton for the Community Health Roundtable Meeting.
Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System hosted the meeting to solicit input concerning the region’s most challenging health issues, as part of their proposed merger. The College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University coordinated the meeting.
The Thursday night event in Elizabethton was one of the health systems’ previously announced work groups initiative that will focus on four key areas: Mental Health & Addiction; Healthy Children & Families; Population Health & Healthy Communities; and Research & Academics.
The event, open to the public, was an organized discussion of what participants considered to be the biggest problems as well as possible methods for improvement.
Those suggestions were made during roundtable discussions and recorded by group leaders. Billy Brooks, ETSU Project Manager of the Work Groups Initiative, served as the facilitator.
Topics ranged from treatment, access and breaking the stigma attached to mental illness, maternity care, support for non-profits that are healthcare-based, economic development, encouraging healthy lifestyles, childhood obesity, the importance of integrated healthcare, and breaking generational de-emphasis on education.
The discussions generated a wall full of yellow sheets of paper covered with ideas and suggestions notated by table leaders.
Todd Norris, Senior Vice President for System Advancement for Wellmont Health System, explained the community input focus of the meeting.
“All of the information we gather this evening will be compiled to guide teams as we look at our regions’ health and ways to improve it,” he said.
Norris also told the group that many of the problems that negatively impact the health of the region’s citizens have been passed down through families.
“This is about, once and for all, breaking some of those generational issues,” he said.
Dr. Randy Wykoff, Founding Dean of the College of Public Health, ETSU, called communities’ efforts to improve health is “a complicated issue.”
“The issues are the same throughout most regions,” he said. “All of us are facing significant health challenges.”
Wykoff shared statistics, showing that although Americans are at their peak of longevity, they are far from having the top ranking in the world; the U.S. only ranks 33rd.
“In other words, two and a half dozen countries’ citizens will live longer,” he said.
As a region, Tennessee ranks 43rd in the nation.
Someone born in this region is more likely to die early, based on certain factors, Wykoff said.
“Those factors causing people to die young are based on 30% genetics, 15% social circumstances, 5% environmental exposure, 10% healthcare and 40% behaviors,” he said. “But all of those things, except the genetics, are things we can change.”
The state also has a poor track record when it comes to tobacco and alcohol use and diet, Wykoff said. In this region, three-fourths of the counties rank worse than the national average.
“These are problems that are more easily prevented than cured,” he added.
“We need to work to get quality healthcare, improve jobs and education and implement behavior change,” Wykoff said. “But we have to work on all of these, because one won’t work with the other two.”
“The key is that we need to work together,” he added. “It has nothing to do with politics, but whether we, as leaders, will make decisions for a healthier future.”