AP NEWS

The state’s health is literally everyone’s business

August 3, 2018

For so many vital reasons, Texas needs to be healthy.

Simply, our well-being isn’t just about feeling good today — it’s about the future of Texas.

Studies show that health indicators are strongly tied to our state’s economic development, global competitiveness and security.

That’s the theme to be explored at the Texas Lyceum public conference to be held Aug. 17 at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. More than 300 of the state’s business, political and health care leaders will be participating in the daylong conference titled “Code Blue! The State of Texas Healthcare.”

The event, spearheaded by the premier nonprofit, nonpartisan leadership organization in Texas, will serve as a gathering of thought leaders on these important state and national issues. Those members will also emphasize inclusive participation from private- and public-sector stakeholders (conference registration is at www.TexasLyceum.org).

By every measure, Texas claims many of the worst indicators of the well-being of its inhabitants in the nation. Chronic diseases, a great many of them preventable, impact every segment of our state population, some far more than others. Education, income, location and race are all factors in the suffering caused by chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma and cancer.

Today, the work of public health officials is largely focused on identifying the risk factors for these chronic diseases. We’re finding, more and more, that ZIP code is more important than genetic code in this regard.

A primary goal of the Texas Lyceum conference will be to inform lawmakers of the pressing health care issues that may come up in the 2019 legislative agenda. With that in mind, the conference will be taking a close look at the results of the 12th annual Texas Lyceum Poll, which presents a snapshot of where Texans stand on a variety of health care issues.

What evolves out of the discussions in San Antonio, which will include some of the state’s pre-eminent minds, will be an action plan aimed at making this state healthier. The Texas Legislature convenes only five months later.

It’s the reason we are calling the theme of our conference “Code Blue,” which is what we say when a patient is in need of resuscitation or immediate medical attention. That describes where Texas is at the moment.

Tough questions and answers will need to be formed in addressing how our minority populations, faced with inequitable challenges in living conditions, financial capability and health care options, can be better served moving forward. This will influence the landscape economically, as well.

Every metric shows that a healthier populace equates to a healthier bottom line for everyone, from households to businesses to state coffers. For instance, community health is going to determine what jobs we’re going to attract to this state. Employers, time and again, show they will locate where employees are mentally and physically capable.

Employers will choose to go to healthier communities, outside the state if necessary, that have that workforce readiness. Or you’ll find communities or states having to incentivize companies to come anyway. If, on the whole, a community is healthier and more dynamic in the workplace, things like aggressive tax abatements wouldn’t have to exist. Those abatements mean fewer tax dollars for a variety of public services.

At the 32nd Texas Lyceum public conference this month, we’ll work on solutions that shift the spotlight onto awareness, education, promotion and, someday, the elimination of the preventable impacts that cause chronic diseases. The discussion, it is hoped, will evolve into proactive messaging for our Legislature and eventual seismic change.

That will effectively reduce the burden of chronic disease in this state. And that will be a healthier outcome for everyone.

Dr. Esteban López, marketing president and chief medical officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, and Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit San Antonio, are co-chairs of the 32nd Texas Lyceum public conference. Brad Morrison, CEO of Innove, is president of Texas Lyceum.

AP RADIO
Update hourly