Mayor Betsy Price and Mike Sanborn, president of Fort Worth’s Baylor Scott and White All Saints Medical Center, spoke to a crowd of community leaders and medical professionals on Oct. 11 about health care in the city currently and what the future holds.
“Healthy communities really are all about economic development,” Price said, adding that community health in Fort Worth and across the country has changed dramatically. “I know how critical it is for children – if kids aren’t healthy they don’t learn … they aren’t in school. Our workforce, if they aren’t healthy they aren’t there. And if their kids aren’t healthy, where’s mom and dad? They’re not there either.”
Healthy communities, she said, are all about a great workforce and attracting a strong presence in the community.
HEALTH CARE’S LOCAL IMPACT
She said that when businesses are coming to a city, like Fort Worth, their first concerns are tax breaks, then the available workforce, education and now, she says, healthcare is becoming one of those top priorities.
“[Businesses] want to be in a healthy, strong, engaged and vibrant community. And amazon is no exception,” Price said. (Read about Fort Worth’s bid for Amazon, here.)
“The things that we’ve worked on in my administration are to have the best run city, the most well-managed, fiscally-responsible city, … an engaged citizenship who knows what we’re doing, an educated citizenship and a healthy community,” Price said, adding that she want’s Fort Worth to be the pilot or the nation on how to really accomplish successful community health.
Now the 16th largest community nationwide at 854,000, as well as being the youngest big city in the Texas and in the south with a median age of 31.4, the community needs to take its health seriously. Not only are millennials looking for a different, more health-focused life-style, Price said, but Fort Worth has a robust and active aging community as well.
People are beginning to take notice of the initiatives the city is putting on to become a more health-conscious community, Price said.
She told the story of when she went to Love Field to greet Barack and Michelle Obama and Joe Biden after the Dallas shooting. She said that when Michelle came of the plane she said, “I know you! You’re that mayor who’s focused on the health of her community.”
Currently Fort Worth has two big health projects going on in Fit Worth and the Blue Zones Project.
The Fit Worth campaign was started six years ago to engage children, and their parents and teachers, to think about sleep and nutrition tracking and make more efforts to get outside. This is important, Price said, because 30 percent of the Fort Worth community is overweight, which is a troubling indicator for our young children.
Under the Fit Worth campaign is also the Fit 15 initiative, where businesses’ employees are encouraged to walk for 15 minutes per day. The mayor even goes around and walks with the businesses on occasion to encourage the activity.
“It’s a small win, but it’s a win and it changes people,” she said.
The Blue Zones Project is part of Fort Worth’s Healthiest City Initiative and aims to help make making healthy choices easier for everyone in Fort Worth. The initiative involves a four-step pledge.
The pledge is for anyone to take and involves four main ideas: learn, measure, participate and complete the checklist. For more detailed information about the project, visit their website, hyperlinked above.
“It’s not about being the thinnest. It’s not about being the fastest. It’s about making that healthy choice a little more regularly,” Price said, adding that making small, incremental changes leads to big results.
Price said that Fort Worth is beginning to be known nationwide as a medical community, having 35,000 medical jobs in the medical industry in the southside alone. It’s a huge economic impact, she said, adding that the city’s hospitals have an economic impact of about $2.6 billion.
This doesn’t mean Fort Worth is without areas for improvement. Price said what we need to focus on as a community is primary care physicians. In Fort Worth, the ratios are 1 to 57 for primary care physicians and 1 to 92 for mental health physicians. These numbers need to improve, Price said.
HEALTHCARE’S BIG PICTURE
Sanborn, president of Baylor Scott & White ASMC, said one only needs to look at the state budget to see the importance of healthcare.
At $61.2 billion for 2016-2017, Medicaid makes up the largest part of a Texas budget, he said.
“Health care is nearly 20 percent of the U.S. economy, and accounts for 26.3 percent of every U.S. tax dollar,” Sanborn said.
Sanborn explained that while statistics keep popping up about the nationwide rate for uninsured persons being at a record low of 8.8 percent, according to Kaiser Health News’ Sept. 12 report, it’s important to look at the state and city levels.
Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured persons in all of the U.S. at 16.6 percent. The Dallas area is in the top 10 percent of uninsured at 27.4 percent, or 439,689 people. Tarrant County ranks close with 21 percent of its population, or 258,033 people, uninsured.
“We are blessed to have a public hospital here with JPS (John Peter Smith Hospital),” Sanborn said, explaining that JPS delivers public primary care to anyone, even those without healthcare. “[Because of this], we see fewer challenges with the uninsured. But we still have a high percentage of uninsured persons.”
As far as how health care impacts business, Sanborn called attention to the fact that while 60 percent of businesses are small businesses of 3-9 workers, those are the least likely to offer health insurance.
Thirty-five and a half percent of the U.S. workforce works in a business with 5,000 or more employees. Businesses at this size are the most likely to offer healthcare, while many small businesses simply cannot afford to offer health benefits.
However, Sanborn said, “Organizations that really want to control their healthcare costs really need to focus on wellness and prevention efforts.”
Fifty-eight percent of small firms and 85 percent of large firms offer a smoking, weight management, behavior or lifestyle coaching program for their workers, Sanborn said, adding that as both a healthcare provider and consumer himself he recommends businesses partner with healthcare systems that are focused on population health management.
“Organizations that focus on health care will be the winners,” Sanborn said.
At the end of the luncheon, Sanborn offered a Q&A session for those in attendance.
An attendee asked Sanborn if one of the drivers of health care costs is overutilization of emergency services for non-emergency needs.
One of the most expensive places to get care is the emergency room,” Sanborn said. “[For instance], surgery centers are cheaper than hospitals. Hospitals are close to triple the cost because of the cost structures.”
People need to be educated on their options as far as do you go to a hospital, emergency room, Urgent Care facility, surgery or other specialization center, Sanborn said, adding “we need to educate people on the options.”