Why Place Matters – at Net Impact Conference 2012

When I was a medical student, I didn’t have access  to the Net Impact organization. It was being conceived by a small group of graduate students, who had their first meeting of 52 people. Instead, I had access to a jarring and sad American Medical Association convention, where I watched my profession fail for the people it was supposed to serve. For dramatic photographs, see: ACT UP Demonstrations – a set on Flickr. I think seeing this was actually very motivating, as Regina Holliday (@ReginaHolliday) and I will be discussing in our upcoming TEDxTalk at Henry Ford Innovation Institute (@HenryFordIdeas) on embracing failure, on November 8.

Back to Net Impact –

Net Impact is:

a community of more than 30,000 changemakers who are using our jobs to tackle the world’s toughest problems. We put our business skills to work for good throughout every sector, showing the world that it’s possible to make a net impact that benefits not just the bottom line, but people and planet too.

They’ve grown from 52 to over 3,000 as you can see from the photograph above.

Governor Martin O'Malley Keynote at NetImpact 16754

The Conference was keynoted by Governor Martin O’Malley (@GovernorOmalley) who did an incredible thing – he preceded his remarks with an appeal for marriage equality in Maryland, to thunderous applause. In 2012 compared to 1992, he’s now channeling the majority view of Americans asked about this (see: Photo Friday: Picturing Equality | Ted Eytan, MD). At the same time, to see a sitting governor place this importance on equality is…impressive. He also spoke of Maryland’s 21 Benefit Corporations, a new concept designed to create corporations that create a “material positive impact on society.” Finally, he quoted from Robert F. Kennedy’s March 18, 1968 speech about what our GDP counts – “air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage…it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.” A great way to start a meeting like this.

Why place matters, A Holistic Look at Health in America

I joined David Harrington from CommonHealth ACTION (@commmonHealthACT), Jessica Kohnen Karaska (@jkohnenkaraska) from Playworks Baltimore, and Kimberly Perry from Washington, DC, Regional Convergence Partnership, to dialogue with 60-70 of the participants on this topic. And it was a dialogue – I am so glad my fellow panelists and attendees ditched the row of microphones and rearranged the room in a circle of chairs.

I was present, representing Kaiser Permanente, because of our commitment to our communities. It’s worth noting that Kaiser Permanente invested $1.8 billion nationally in Community Benefit programs in 2011. In 2010 and 2011 combined, Kaiser Permanente invested more than $130 million through Community Benefit in the Mid-Atlantic region, including $7.5 million in community initiatives to address access to healthy foods, walkable/bikeable neighborhoods, safe streets, healthy schools/after-schools, smart land-use for parks, trails and healthy retail, and more.

That’s a lot, and what it really means is that a health system can and does do more than consider the hospital/medical office environment in improving health, and its physicians, nurses, staff, and members/patients are part of this system. Our participants were pretty savvy about this, in my opinion, and they have the energy to do something about it (also, in my opinion). Maybe they haven’t had an AMA convention to shape their conviction to do something different in their careers, but they study, walk, and interact in the communities that in 2012 show unbelievable rates of obesity and easy access to unhealthy environments.

In yesterday’s discussion, they did have access to innovative ideas like Playworks, which will bring physical activity to every child in America (and to every worker as well), food equity, which means bringing the benefits of a healthy food system to all, and The Port Towns Community Health Intiative.

Recognize the change in yourself

While striving for more, sometimes we forget about the changes we’ve already made.

This hit me when a participant, a nurse (feel free to identify yourself in the comments), brought up the issue of educating the physicians they work with about healthy eating among the families they care for.

My response was to bring the voice of the families into the conversation (and model my Walking Gallery jacket…) and allow them to start the dialogue about what they need. I know, easier said than done. And then I looked in the back of the room where Kait Roe (@kaitbr) was sitting. She was there because I reflexively asked Net Impact several days before if she could be invited to be in the conversation, because, I told them, we wanted patients in every dialogue. They of course said yes. I didn’t solicit the question or plan on talking about Kait’s role because I don’t even think about doing this anymore, I just do it. What a wonderful thing, to come to teach, and end up being taught something about myself :).

Thank you, Net Impact. I hope to see you again in many conversations about health. Oh, and Prevention is the new Health Information Technology.

1 Comment

Ted Eytan, MD