World Health Organization and Health Promotion – Why?

In 2009, international health experts arrived at Windber, PA, to lend us some of their expertise. We heard and discussed how we as a community; how we in our hospital systems can improve the health outcomes of our citizens and community. Those in attendance were clinicians, nurses, academicians, scientists, managed care executives, information technology specialists and an executive pharmaceutical team from NY. The one comment most of these folks made as the session was winding down and finally came to an end was how exhausted they were. Can you imagine having your world turned upside down on such issues as universal health care?  Or this new terminology called clinical health promotion serving as the proven, evidence based approach to not only improving the health of our patients, but assuring us of   better chance of getting out of the hospital quicker and with fewer complications.

The easy answer to the why the WHO came to town is that it is an organization having a 20 year track record in hospital based health promotion, the new lingo in the vocabulary of US politicians. In the U.S. we pay more for our health care then any of the other developed countries and have poor health outcomes as a result. It is time we look outside of our borders for help. Taiwan did it and several other countries are doing pretty well with their health care. In my twenty years as a hospital based physician I have experienced numerous hospital consultants, regulatory and health award groups entering a hospital environment to either announce the great things we are doing as hospitals or how to lay claim to better patient care. Thousands and millions of dollars are spent on such questionable practices. And how has all of this improved the health of out communities, our nation? We have seen the result, a fragmented and broken health care system. Millions are uninsured; more under insured and bankruptcy, due to health insurance bills, in now all too common for thousands of U.S families. I have to wonder whether international health experts, with a proven track record, were invited to the recently held presidential forums to offer advice on health care reform. Most likely not and the same politicians or health care leaders that have gotten us into this situation were again touting their expertise or referring to their best selling novels.

Another message we received from our visiting international experts is that our patients must ask some additional questions of their physicians or surgeons as they are preparing for surgery or a hospitalization. A physician telling you, the patient, of his specialty or his or her many years of experience should not be enough to assure us of the best outcome. Doctor, what evidence is there to support your decision? This is the question we need to now ask as we rise to that next level of health education.

Dr. Tim Neuman from Germany summed it up well during the panel discussion at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. “You are a bizarre country,” when he described the many concerning issues we have in this country, but “for this event I see solidarity.” Some thing we need to see more of at the grass root s level. A thank you to the community, our partner, the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown; our sponsors; and the fine folks at the Windber Research Institute and Medical Center. Oh, and by the way, the cost to the hospital for this WHO consultation was around $400, which is expected to be reimbursed once all the other bills are paid. Not bad, and probably difficult to comprehend.


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