Health-care organizations are dedicated to improving the communities they serve, by preventing disease and treating illness. That goal becomes more challenging as the health of our country and community continues to decline.
Issues of personal responsibility, including tobacco use, lack of exercise, and poor nutrition, contribute to this decline. So do social factors such as unmet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter, education gaps, and high unemployment.
Hospitals and communities must work together in new ways, with new partners, to reverse these negative trends. Since 1999, local hospitals have collaborated through the Lucas County Healthy Communities Foundation of the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio. This cooperation has led to the investment of millions of dollars in our community to improve public health and address issues such as tobacco use, safety, and access to medical care.
This year, Mercy, ProMedica, and the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio, are renewing our commitment to improving the health of our community. We now collaborate under the banner “Fostering Healthy Communities.”
This new name signifies commitment to our partnership in keeping with the federal Affordable Care Act, which directs hospitals to identify and address community health needs. We think our common agenda will become a catalyst for other local institutions to work with us to achieve collective impact, based on the belief that large-scale social change comes from better coordination rather than isolated interventions by individual organizations.
The most recent Lucas County Health Assessment report, released last year, suggests priorities that can form an agenda for improved local health: addressing health disparities, increasing access to medical care, improving youth safety, promoting healthy living, and reducing tobacco use. In the coming months, you’ll see partnerships mobilize to address these issues.
Fostering Healthy Communities is working with WGTE Public Media on a bullying awareness and prevention initiative to create a safer environment for our young people. Toledo/Lucas County CareNet will continue to enhance access to health care, with particular emphasis on adult dental care.
We want these priorities to set the common agenda in Lucas County, not only for hospitals but also for individuals, families, businesses, nonprofit groups, faith communities, and local governments. Working together, we can foster a healthier community.
Lloyd Jacobs, M.D., is president of the University of Toledo. Randy Oostra is president and chief executive officer of ProMedica. Andrea Price is president and chief executive officer of Mercy.
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