Woods, president and CEO of Carolinas HealthCare System, described the “battles that must be fought and won not only for the organizations we represent but, most importantly, for our patients and the people in the communities we serve.”

In his investiture address, which opened the 2017 AHA Annual Membership meeting, he said the hospital field must fight to protect and expand access to coverage, better engage with communities outside traditional walls and “set firm” the aspiration that no person should live a shorter life because of inequities of care.

He said there are hundreds of thousands of people who now are at risk of losing highly needed health insurance coverage if the American Health Care Act were enacted, citing as an example a woman who likely would be dead now from breast cancer were it not for her Affordable Care Act–provided coverage. Yet, he also said, the current U.S. health care system needs revamping, and health systems can do their part to make care more affordable and transparent.

Woods said the effort to engage with communities is driven by the knowledge that population health is a broad responsibility. “If someone leaves one of our hospitals and has no home to go to, or job to return to, or grocery stores to get fresh, affordable food, or parks to exercise and enjoy their families, that person, that community cannot be healthy,” he said.

Regarding equity of care, he urged hospital leaders in attendance to join the more than 1,500 organizations that committed to the National Call to Action to Eliminate Health Care Disparities — a joint effort of the AHA and other hospital and health care groups — if they haven’t already. “It is vitally important that we understand the different cultures, different customs and the languages in our communities with all the dimensions of care.”