By Rebekah Seder, Program Coordinator
“Successful health reform is a participant sport.”
This was George Mason University’s Director of the Center for Health Policy Research Dr. Len Nichols’ message to funders at a recent briefing about how the health care reform law will impact areas beyond health insurance coverage and the delivery of health care to consumers. He pointed out that successfully implementing health reform to reduce costs and improve outcomes for everyone requires a focus on the whole community and depends on effectively engaging community stakeholders, from patients and doctors, to employers, business leaders, and public officials.
Dr. Nichols outlined the elements of the law that affect areas beyond what are traditionally considered to be in the realm of medical care , particularly through its emphasis on strengthening community health and wellness programs. The legislation includes $15 billion to create the Prevention and Public Health Fund to augment community efforts to promote health and well-being through preventing illness and better managing chronic diseases.
The law also recognizes the role that communities play in improving public health through the National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy, which outlines how diverse community stakeholders can develop prevention and wellness programs in order to be better catalysts for health.
According to Dr. Nichols, members of the philanthropic community have an opportunity to impact the success of health care reform particularly in their role as conveners. Funders and others in influential positions in their communities can engage with stakeholders, such as hospitals, consumers, and the business community, to share information and ideas; counter misinformation about health reform; and advocate for local health departments to apply for federal funding.
Funders should also remember that many of their grantees are, in fact, small businesses which will have to make decisions about how to address various aspects of the law. When it comes to improving health, preventing chronic disease, and lowering health care costs, communities will either thrive as a collective unit – or they won’t at all.
Dr. Nichols’ presentation can be found in its entirety here.