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Summit: St. Luke’s speakers brainstorm health solutions

Dr. B. Cameron Webb addresses participants at the recent summit. Photo by St. Luke’s Health System.

The annual St. Luke’s Health System Summit celebrated the belief that everyone in Idaho should be able to live the healthiest life possible in the healthiest communities.

The was the emphasis of the opening remarks from Dr. David Pate, system president and CEO, at the April 9 event, which drew 300 participants – community leaders and health care workers – to Boise Centre East.

“This is an opportunity to bring our brightest minds” to one place to come up with solutions, said Pate, referring to the summit’s theme: “Better Together.”

He said disparities in health care outcomes should “not happen on our watch.”

Pate, the keynote speaker, Dr. B. Cameron Webb, and a panel of community leaders who shared insights into improving community health, framed the context of the work around health equity by the numbers: life expectancy in the U.S. is dropping and the rate of infant mortality is rising. Only 10% of health outcomes are determined by what happens in a medical office despite $3.8 trillion dollars spent on health care each year in the U.S.

Webb, a physician and lawyer who works at the intersection of health care and social justice, said more money isn’t needed; instead the focus should be on addressing access. Webb also practices as a hospitalist at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He worked in both the Obama and Trump administrations as director of the My Brother’s Keeper program, and highlighted the role of social determinants that impact health and well-being.

In addition, Webb serves as the director of Health Policy and Equity, assistant professor of medicine and assistant professor of public health sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

“We know that genes don’t determine all of your health. We know that health care doesn’t determine all of your health,” said Webb. “We know that somewhere between 30 and 60% of your health outcomes, whether it’s morbidity or mortality, is determined by the social, economic and behavioral factors that live in places where we are born, grow, live, learn, eat, play and pray.

“Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible,” Webb said, encouraging attendees to learn the needs of their communities, lean on innovative partners and be “convenors” of solutions-based initiatives that address health issues.

Following  Webb’s keynote presentation, a panel of six local leaders discussed ways to improve community health and build effective partnerships in Idaho. They included Roger Quarles, executive director of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation; Dr. Jeff Fox, president of the College of Southern Idaho; Dr. Nikki Zogg, director of Southwest District Health; Wyatt Schroeder, director of community partnerships at the City of Boise; Dr. Deborah Robertson, emergency physician at St. Luke’s Wood River; and Dianne Robinson, registered nurse at St. Luke’s McCall.

Using plain English was one panelist’s suggested prescription for better outcomes.

“We use so much jargon in the medical world that I wonder how many times we’re getting through to our patients” said Dr. Robertson.

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