I fondly call my hometown, Nashville, the “Silicon Valley of Health Services.” With 18 publicly traded national health care companies headquartered here with annual global health care revenues of over $70 billion, our city takes health seriously. While our city provides multiple health services to every state in the country, there is a cruel irony: the health of our citizens is in jeopardy.
Jobs are booming, construction cranes pierce the skyline, home values are gaining, and the city is a destination for business and vacation travelers at an expanding rate. Yet, we consistently post high smoking, blood pressure, and obesity rates—much higher than our peer cities around the country. And the challenges start with our very youngest citizens—too many babies don’t see their first birthday, and too many elementary school children live inactive lives, in poverty, that leads to obesity.
One of the things they didn’t teach me in medical school is that health services delivered accounts for only 10 to 15 percent of a population’s health status. We can build the best hospitals, provide the richest health plans, and I can be the best heart surgeon possible, but behavior and how and where people live, eat, work, and play have a far greater impact on an individual’s health.
If we are going to keep the momentum that our city is gaining, addressing the social determinants of our health must become first priority.
That’s why I along with a handful of other interested citizens set out to determine what could be done to change the trajectory of a city’s health equity and its people’s well-being. And this sparked an idea that has become a robust community initiative to build a countywide, collaborative health movement. Through NashvilleHealth, our mission is to substantially improve the health and wellbeing of all Nashvillians. We do that as a convener of the city’s health and wellbeing initiatives for diverse sectors—academic to clinical, business to government and public health—that will positively influence the lives of more than 600,000 Nashvillians
None of us can do this alone. We recognize that our DNA determines some of our health outcomes and our doctors are a critical piece. Yet social determinants—what we do at home, at work, in our leisure time, on our city streets and parks, and where we worship—play a significant role in health. Especially where there are disparities among cultures and neighborhoods, NashvilleHealth will focus our efforts.
Our work is fueled by the Action, Innovation, and Partnerships of local and national initiatives that come together and spur one another on for common impact:
Action: We foster the growth of policy, clinical, community outreach, and awareness strategies among Nashville’s organizations and advocates. It’s the action and the execution that catalyze improving rankings, ratings, and statistics—and therefore lives, wellbeing and productivity. We use Healthy People 2020 as our benchmark.
Innovation: We collaboratively harness and deploy the unmatched—yet untapped—power of data, so that it becomes a practical tool to set targets and inform clinical decisions. Our city’s world-class academic researchers are our partners, and an incredible asset to this work.
Partnership: The underpinning of all of our work at NashvilleHealth, partnership is fundamental to achieving the goals and outcomes we must reach.