Leaders Work to Improve Community Health

Creating community well-being should be a proactive endeavor for both the nation and communities of faith.

That’s what community leaders from around the country discussed at this year’s Wellbeing in the Nation Summit, held in Alexandria, Virginia. The summit acts as a think tank to create plans that influence national health policy.

CHHSM Vice President Ben Guess, a summit attendee, says the event was an excellent fit for CHHSM’s emphasis on holistic community well-being. “All of our ministries specialize in a more preventative and whole-person approach,” he says.

The summit builds on 25 years of the healthy community movement, implemented by the Healthy Cities initiative in the 1980s to form local, state and national partnerships to improve the economic, social and physical well-being of people and places. The first summit meeting in 2008 helped create the National Prevention Council as part of the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia spoke at the June 2-4 summit, which brought leaders together to form recommendations on how to improve community well-being. The summit’s recommendations will be shared soon with all presidential nominees’ campaigns with the hope of influencing health policy platforms.

“It is about bringing together social instigators, people committed to change and improving lives,” Mikulski says. “As leaders in government, business and the health community, we’re here to put our hearts and heads together to improve the health and well-being of families and make communities stronger.”

Leaders addressed ways to proactively address healthcare disparities in at-risk populations.

“Right now we are seeing, across the board, that the United States is facing increasing disparities, especially for women and children, decreasing quality of life and life expectancy, poorer educational attainment when compared to other nations,” Guess says.

Summit discussion centered on how to use tax money to address the causes, not just the effects of income disparity, Guess says.

“As a former social worker, I know how important access to quality education or life-saving care can be to public health and well-being, but it’s not a silver bullet solution,” Mikulski says. “We must change the paradigm so that indicators like a person’s zip code or social reality help form public policy so that no one is left out or left behind.”

Guess says faith communities have the opportunity to enact such a change.

“The only way to fundamentally change community well-being for all is for me to believe that my neighbor’s health is just as important as my own. That mindset, that approach, is the work of faith,” he says.

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