Arlington Today Guest Writer, Dr. Glenn Hardesty. Photography by Bob Pruitt.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This philosophy was the cornerstone of our training when I entered medical school in 1992. Unfortunately, the current health care system has lost sight of this wisdom and aims to treat, rather than prevent, disease.
“Good health” is more than just the absence of disease, but rather the trinity of the mind, body, and spirit. In addition to physical health, overall well-being encompasses several components including:
- Healthy behaviors (not smoking, regular exercise, a diet high in vegetables).
- Life evaluation (a self-evaluation based on two realms: present life situation and anticipated life situation five years from now).
- Emotional health (happiness, depression, anger, contentment).
- Work environment (job satisfaction; ability to use one’s strengths at work; supervisor’s treatment).
- Basic access to food, shelter, healthcare and a safe, satisfying place to live (measures an individual’s access to necessities, such as clean water; medicine; access to a doctor; access to health insurance; enough money for food and shelter; etc.).
According the 2012 Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index, DFW ranked 61st in well-being out of 189 U.S. Metropolitan areas. Arlington has more than 365,000 residents, making it the seventh largest city in Texas. With that in mind, Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital continues to enhance the health care needs of those living in Arlington and strives to focus on all of the aforementioned components of well-being.
Keeping patients well and out of the hospital is and will be the focus of Texas Health Resources. This may sound like self-destructive behavior from a hospital system, but the administrators at Texas Health are no longer satisfied with the outdated model of treating, rather than preventing disease.
We know hospitals will always be a vital part of our health care delivery system, but by focusing our efforts on influencing all of the components of well-being, Texas Health will fundamentally change how we view healthcare. Physician-led population health is the critical component of a sustainable healthcare system.
For illustration purposes, let me provide a hypothetical scenario of a common patient – Ms. Jones. She suffers from diabetes and obesity. These chronic conditions result from both a genetic predisposition, as well as lifestyle behaviors.
Ms. Jones, unfortunately, is not alone. According to the Texas Health Institute, diabetes is a chronic disease affecting more than 1.5 million Texans. Complications from her chronic conditions caused her to miss many days at work, resulting in her eventual termination.
With little support, she tries to see her doctor but misses many of her appointments due to lack of transportation. Subsequently, she is a frequent visitor to the emergency department and is often admitted to the hospital for continued care. Frustrated with her declining health and mounting hospital bills, Ms. Jones feels trapped and grows resentful of the medical community. Would she not be better served with a fundamentally different model of care?
Imagine another scenario of health care for Ms. Jones. After learning about healthy behaviors through one of Texas Health’s various community outreach programs, she begins a weekly walking regimen with members of her religious community. The group trades healthy recipes and serve as “accountability partners” for each other, encouraging and rewarding more healthy behaviors.
As a result of her increased activity, her weight decreases and her diabetes significantly improves, eventually reducing or even eliminating her need for expensive medications. In addition to the financial gain, this healthy behavior leads directly to improving her sense of community and emotional well-being. She is able to re-enter the workforce and further contribute to her overall quality of life.
Ms. Jones is now able to visit her doctor and his/her team of allied health professionals in a more appropriate and cost-effective setting, thus improving her financial health. The patient, Ms. Jones, ultimately took charge of her medical condition when supplied with the tools needed to improve her overall health and well-being.
Texas Health is transforming from a hospital system focused on sick care, to a health care system dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the communities in which we are privileged to serve. We aim to lead by example, by creating work environments that foster healthy behaviors improving all aspects of health. A healthy workforce has clearly been shown to have lower rates of absence, fewer health issues and improved productivity.
Taking these lessons to local businesses, Texas Health will assist others in improving the well-being of their employees. Coupled with its collaboration with Healthways, Texas Health will be the vanguard of health and well-being far into the future – because an ounce of prevention is, indeed, worth a pound of cure.
Dr. Hardesty is an Emergency Medicine physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital and chairperson of Texas Health Resources’ Physician Leadership Council. Within the Arlington community, Dr. Hardesty serves as a tactical physician for the Arlington Police Department. Doctors on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital.