On My Mind - Population Health

Earlier this month, I was invited to a meeting of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (or ASPPH – try pronouncing that acronym!). Over 100 senior faculty leaders from around the country participated in the meeting. My role was to give the employer perspective on population health improvement. This made me wonder… is there one? I would guess that most employers have never heard the phrase “population health improvement”.

But this phrase is making its way in to the vocabulary of health care, driven in part by efforts to change how health care is delivered and paid for. The goals of population health improvement are in sync with the goals of employers. Improving the health of a population translates to a more productive workforce (current and future) and lower long-term health care costs. If you aren’t familiar with this trend, here is what you need to know…

Population health improvement describes efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of a particular group of people. The “population” can be defined in different ways – people living in the same community, employees of a business, people with a certain condition like diabetes or high blood pressure, etc. The strength of this approach is that it encourages – or even forces – a broader view of health and health care.

Improving health is a team sport. Tackling the biggest underlying causes of poor health requires coordinated action on many fronts to make an impact. As an example, imagine trying to reduce tobacco use if smoking was allowed in public and the workplace and if cigarettes were subject to low taxes and therefore inexpensive? Imagine trying to eat healthy with no nearby sources of fresh food. Key to improving the health of a population (or our own health for that matter!) is making it easier to do the right things for better health.

Interested in learning more? Our Alliance Learning Circle on August 22 explores the role of business in improving population health. We will hear presentations from national experts as well as our own local exemplar –  Beaver Dam Community Hospital, who is a shining star as both an employer and a provider of health care services. Please mark your calendars and join us for a morning of learning with and from each other.

Cheryl DeMars

Cheryl DeMars

President & CEO at The Alliance
Cheryl DeMars joined The Alliance in 1992, assuming several roles before becoming CEO in December 2006. Cheryl works with the Board of Directors and senior leadership team to establish the strategic direction of the cooperative.

Cheryl participates in a number of national and regional initiatives that align with The Alliance’s mission of controlling costs, improving quality and engaging individuals in their health. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the board of the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality.

Prior to joining The Alliance, Cheryl was a program manager at Meriter Hospital in Madison. She earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Cheryl DeMars

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