November marks a time of year when many experts start publishing their top 10 lists, from the biggest news stories and best books to the most followed tweets and influential people. I am sure you’ve scanned a list or two while in line at the grocery store, and no doubt there will be all kinds of additional lists as we inch closer and closer to the new year.
So, what would your top 10 list in health care look like for 2017? With the kind of year we’ve experienced in the field, it seems especially difficult to come up with just 10 placeholders to sufficiently encapsulate all the twists and turns related to efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act alone. And that’s without including issues ranging from the opioid crisis, violence and mass shootings to telehealth, behavioral health and health equity — our list could go on and on.
Though, when I began my term as the American Hospital Association’s board chairman in January, I felt that as health care leaders we should include a priority focus on three main areas: coverage, community and care.
First, we must protect and expand access and coverage for our friends, families and neighbors. I’m proud to say that in 2017, hundreds of thousands hospital leaders, clinicians and staff, as well as patients and community members alike, wrote letters, made phone calls and visited Capitol Hill to protect coverage. Together we successfully shared the real-life stories of the millions of Americans who were most at risk of losing access to the care they need.
Second, we must continue to reach outside of the hospital’s traditional walls and better engage with the communities we serve. This year, more hospitals and health systems began developing strategies and creating programs to address the social determinants of health. Ian Morrison spotlights the work of ProMedica in this issue, and countless other hospitals — large and small, urban and rural — are leading similar initiatives. Thank you for your tremendous work in this regard — it is making a difference.
Finally, we must have the courage to set firm the aspiration that no one in this country should have their life cut short due to inequities in care. I’m especially proud of the AHA’s alliance with the National Urban League, which we began this year, to advance health equity and diversity in health care leadership in U.S. communities.
With the support of the entire AHA, led by Rick Pollack, we’ve made extensive progress in each of these areas over the past year. These issues are large, complex and multi-dimensional, and our collective efforts have been outstanding.
It has been the honor of my professional career to serve as your AHA chair and to work with such an incredible team of dedicated individuals. Thank you for your tireless commitment day after day, year after year, to ensuring that every single American has the opportunity to reach their highest potential for health. You are at the top of my list, and certainly belong at the top of any list of those making the greatest positive impact in the world.
Eugene A. Woods is president and CEO of Carolinas HealthCare System and chair of the American Hospital Association’s board of trustees.