Chisara N. Asomugha

Chisara N. Asomugha

Chisara N. Asomugha is a pediatrician, health services researcher and ordained minister residing in New Haven, Conn. She also serves as vice president of the Orphans and Widows In Need Foundation.

True health reform

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, one thing is true: these are historic times. The singular issue of health has dominated the national political landscape for just over a year in unprecedented fashion--revealing our hopes and fears and testing our resolve. We can debate whether its high ranking on the national agenda was motivated by financial concerns (the rising costs of health care) or a moral obligation (health care as a right not a privilege)--but the essential point is that America is speaking about health. And all during a time of worldwide economic turmoil and uncertainty. History shows that during economic hardship, governments (local, state and federal) have chosen to dismiss health as a "side issue" or eliminate health services altogether, forgetting the direct link between health and economic stability. So credit must be given to President Obama, for without his tenacious leadership in keeping the nation focused on health through the spirited and grueling national health debate, its historic outcome might not have occurred.

This, however, is just the beginning. True reform does not stop with financing health-care delivery or covering millions of uninsured. It requires a broader discussion on health promotion and our individual and collective contributions to the health and wellbeing of this nation. It depends on the creation of opportunities for non-health sectors to perceive their work as an essential component of the health landscape and a willingness for non-health and health sectors to work together. It will be predicated on the development of action plans consisting of health-friendly policies and strategies for health promotion with the expectation that these will result in improvements in health outcomes across populations. Then, only, can we have a fully comprehensive and transformative movement on health and health care in America. It is with great foresight, then, that Congress included in the health care reform bill the creation of a National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council comprised of leaders in non-health and health agencies in federal government. For the first time, top cabinet officials in Labor, Education, Transportation, Agriculture and other agencies will be sitting at the table with Health and Human Services to examine strategies for promoting health across all sectors. This is a tremendous feat and one that will yield great dividends if done correctly.

Cities and states across the country can look to emulate what the federal government and bring together various stakeholders to assess the impact of current policy on the health of communities and develop mechanisms to ensure the health (and some municipalities already have). If we want to be successful in transforming the landscape of health and health care in the U.S. and create healthy communities that can meet the demands of the 21st century, we must be unequivocal in visioning and creating these collaborative opportunities. In this manner, we can leverage the momentum generated in the passage of health reform and potentially improve the health of Americans for this and future generations.

By Chisara N. Asomugha  |  April 2, 2010; 8:31 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Good questions--health reform should not be solely about transforming individual habits...health reform (at least in the way I posited above) is about transforming the way we all think about health. Health is not just the responsibility of individuals and health care professionals. There is a collective responsibility regarding health--whether it's the business community, farmers, medical organizations or the public school system.

As for health care reform-- there are significant changes to health insurance practices, but there are a number of items within that speak to how we approach health as well (i.e., the interagency council and the council mentioned above).

Posted by: chisaraasomugha | April 12, 2010 4:06 PM
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If health reform relates to individual habits that can positively or negatively affect personal health; health care reform being changes (hopefully positive) that affect diagnosis, provision and availability of services; and health insurance reform is just that: access, parity, etc.; isn’t what actually occurred with the passage of “health care reform” actually health insurance reform? What specifically is in the law that changes how illnesses are actually treated? And the big question: Since Congress failed to address the real issue (e.g. ever increasing costs), what good is a law that mandates health insurance coverage if a person can’t afford the premiums, deductibles, co-pays and other related expenses?

Posted by: agreen2 | April 11, 2010 11:00 AM
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