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A Call to Action

There has been a lot of discussion about Dr. Don Berwick's speech he recently gave at the annual conference at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. As the former administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Dr. Berwick sought to improve the current Medicare/Medicaid system by increasing the quality of health care and to also cut costs (read the New York Times article here). However, in his short 17 months as administrator, he was not able to accomplish this. What he did accomplish, though, was bringing about a new way of thinking about the health care system and the potential it has to be improved.

In his speech, Dr. Berwick discussed his ideas on how to change the health care system in this country. He addressed some of the following points: putting the patient, especially those who are disadvantage, first; doing things at scale; and mobilizing on a local level. Most importantly, he gave those in the health care field a much needed call to action.

I thought of Dr. Berwick's call to action after reading Patrick Dillon's blog from December 14. Patrick discussed how several of his students were unaware that health disparities exist, and they are not alone. Dr. Berwick's point about putting the patient first reminds us to treat people from all walks of life and at every stage of life. Additionally, Dr. Berwick discusses how rationing health care hinders improvement. He notes, "It boggles my mind that the same people who cry 'foul' about rationing an instant later argue to reduce health care benefits for the needy, to defund crucial programs of care and prevention, and to shift thousands of dollars of annual costs to people-elders, the poor, the disabled-who are least able to bear them." There must be an awareness brought to the disparity in treatment between the young and the old, the rich and the poor; but beyond creating awareness, there must action. As he stated, "The good news: the possibility of change has never been greater-not in my lifetime. The bad news: if it's going to be the right change, the burden is yours."

I feel like those who are in public health, especially the 2011 CCRC Doctoral Fellows, have a lot to offer. From Rui Shi and Rannie Teodoro's work with social media; to Kisha Coa and Minal Patel's research with behavior change and disease management; to Rachel Faulkenberry's work with health literacy; to Adam Richards's expertise in communication and Paula Baldwin's contribution to the field of palliative care; there is a lot of potential for change in our health care system. And as long as we have people like Patrick Dillon teaching future generations that disparities exist, perhaps in time, Dr. Berwick's vision will come to fruition.

Michelle Henton
Senior Research Assistant, CCRC
KPCO

Written by CCRC at 12:52

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