In the above diagram, if you look at the left, it shows that policies & programs can influence health factors which will then influence health outcomes. At the top, health outcomes are basically half and half length of life and quality of life. We all want to have longer more fulfilling lives. The thing thats missing from this is that there should be another arrow atop health outcomes. It should say cost, because better outcomes can mean lower costs to healthcare.
The factors portion is what’s interesting. Only about 10% of factors comes from the physical environment. In West Virignia we really get beat up on rankings of housing and transportation because we are a rural community and have a lot of poverty.
The next section is social & economic factors. This is 40% of the factor scores. Educated citizens make better choices. We should all make certain physical education & health classes are taught at a young age and continued throughout the K-12 education for our youth. It might not hurt to bring home economics back either. Family & social support and community safety make up the rest of this. There is nothing you can substitute for family & social support or for community safety. Any investment in these will eventually lead to better outcomes. And remember, better outcomes means lower costs.
Clinical care is only 20%. Access to care is driven a great deal by employers providing health insurance and other benefits like sick leave. Quality of care is up to providers. We are fortunate in West Virginia to have some truly high quality providers in such a small rural state.
The last block you see going up is health behaviors. It is 30%. If you use tobacco, investment in a cessation program will pay you back. Diet and exercise are also big drivers. Having a limited use of alcohol and limiting drug use can help tremendously. If you are sexually active, and not in a monogamous relationship there are risks that you may be taking. Talking with your healthcare provider about the risks and how to mitigate them may save you from certain sexually transmitted infections.
More than half of the factors listed above are things you can help your employees with. This investment in their health will pay dividends. Keep in mind these are long term investments and they don’t happen over night.
If you’re further interested in how these are calculated or how your community is graded versus the rest of West Virginia or the rest of the county, go to https://www.countyhealthrankings.org and you can see the data in an easy to use format.