We Can Take Some Simple Steps To Improve Our Health

This op-ed by Independent Health President and CEO Michael Cropp originally appeared in the Buffalo News.

There has been a lot of talk about health care reform over the past several years as a result of the Affordable Care Act. The conversation will heat up as we approach the Nov. 15 open enrollment period for next year’s coverage on the state’s public exchange, known as New York State of Health. But the issue isn’t just about health care reform or coverage – it’s about health, and improving the overall health of our community.

There are steps we can all take as individuals, as stakeholders in the local health care marketplace and as a region to influence sustainable change in health. At the top of the list is accountability.

Each of us must have a sense of accountability, that is, a sense to which we believe we are in control of the circumstances that impact our lives and the future of Western New York. Accountability, in tandem with collaboration, can help us improve health, which will allow us to continue reversing the unsustainable trend of rising costs.

Controlling costs, in turn, can stimulate the local economy by attracting new businesses and enabling existing employers to add more staff, because they will spend less on health benefits and medical care.

Other simple changes such as eating five servings of fruits and vegetables every day and drinking eight glasses of water each day can also make a long-lasting difference.

Communities with the broadest engagement of people taking accountability for their health and promoting healthier lifestyles will be the winners in terms of driving a more vital population and stronger economy.

The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that promotes high-performing health care communities, released a case study earlier this year that highlighted our region’s success. A recent report from the Institute of Medicine ranked Buffalo Niagara fourth in the nation for lowest health care costs, a position we should strive together to maintain or even improve upon.

Western New York is clearly on the rise and an increasingly healthy community will help take us to even greater heights.

Michael W. Cropp is president and CEO of Independent Health and chairman of the board of the Alliance of Community Health Plans, a national organization of health plans dedicated to improving the health
of the communities each plan serves.

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