Improving health care without Congress

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Scott Morris, Guest columnist
Published 10:00 a.m. CT Sept. 8, 2017

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Church Health YMCA cuts ribbon, to open on Saturday
Tom Bailey/The Commercial Appeal

We have enormous health resources here in the Memphis area, but they are not distributed evenly to reach our entire population. There are changes we can make — without extra funding or new laws — that will improve our health care system and provide better care for all.

Identify a primary care medical home for every person.

We all should know who our doctor is — who we can call to keep an eye on our health instead of waiting until something bad happens and then filling up the emergency departments of hospitals with self-limiting diseases that could have been treated and cared for in office settings.

That would save millions of dollars on unneeded tests, high-cost care, and unneeded anxiety. 

Healthy Shelby, an initiative of Mayor Mark Luttrell supported by all major health care players, could lead the charge on this proposal. We could do this across the county by coordinating resources we already have in place. The goal would take a monumental effort, but it is achievable.

Identify the major public health initiatives we need to improve our health status as a community.

The obvious targets here are obesity, infant mortality, health literacy, food insecurity, and, well the list goes on. Health researchers must help us identify what we can do to make a difference.

All universities, hospitals, and social service agencies must be willing to work together. Churches and other faith communities must see that they play a role in this success. Alicia Housholter, our magnificent new director of the Shelby County Health Department, is well qualified to lead such a project.

Address unspoken issues we face at the ends of our lives.

Here the faith community can lead a movement in Shelby County and across the country. Too many people spend the last days of their lives in the intensive care unit, with tubes stuck down their throats, around people who do not know them well enough to love them, and then they die. 

No one likes to discuss death, but this is a moral discussion, and our faith leaders can help make it easier to have in every faith community and home between people who love each other. Decisions can then be shared with health care workers. 

Those of us here in Shelby County can change our health care trajectory by deciding to form collaborations with all entities that care deeply about the future of our city.

What we need is for everyone to understand that it’s in our own self-interest for our neighbor to be as healthy as God desires us all to be.

I have one more suggestion, but this one would require congressional approval and some sort of political miracle.

Lower the age for Medicare to 55.

Currently we are treating older adults for heart attacks and strokes because of hypertension and uncontrolled diabetes that manifested when people were in their 50’s. Wouldn’t it make more sense to prevent heart attacks and strokes by effectively treating hypertension and diabetes when they are first identified?

Lowering the age for Medicare would also lower the number of the uninsured in America and allow us to spend our effort and dollars treating problems that can be managed rather than the dangerous results.

Rev. Dr. G. Scott Morris, M.D., is founder and chief executive officer of Church Health.

 

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Improving health care without Congress

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