Search Google for the number one cause of death in America and it will tell you that it's heart disease followed by cancer. Google's wrong. The number one cause of death in America isn't heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer or pneumonia. It's the choices we make.
About 20 percent of what we call health is the result of genetics. Another 20 percent is due to the environment in which we live. And 50 percent is the lifestyle we lead. But it's medical interventions - that final 10 percent of the pie - that accounts for almost all of the $3 trillion we will spend this year on health care in the United States.
Why is it that so many of us only take personal responsibility for our health when a health crisis strikes? Why is it so hard for many of us to closely watch what we eat and drink, get plenty of exercise, better manage our stress, and take more care about what we do when we get behind the wheel of a car? America has the best medical care in the world, but that care can only do so much to reverse the effects of our lifestyle choices. Our current health care system operates like an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, waiting to pick people up when they fall. To which I say, wouldn't we be better off building a fence at the top of that cliff?
It has taken too long to recognize that we should be working to stay well. Long term wellness is where "value" lies for the consumer. But what we must realize is that value will require all of us to become better stewards of our own health and wellness.
There is a growing body of studies that demonstrate that people can play an important role in determining their own health outcomes. One recent study by Fairview Wellness Services found that engaged and informed patients can reduce the cost of health care by an average of eight percent. The more control we exert over our health habits, the healthier we will become, resulting in lower health care costs and better health outcomes for all.
It's a bit of an unspoken contract between you and your health care. At Centura Health, we're willing to change the entire infrastructure of our system to make it more accessible, convenient, affordable, and wellness oriented, but we also have to rely on consumers to take personal responsibility for their health.
We believe that Colorado is fertile ground for a health care revolution that gives accountability and control back to the consumer. We live in a state that regularly challenges convention and often empowers its citizens to be independent and progressive. We believe the same can hold true for health care by effectively inviting the consumer to take control, driving the conversation and demanding better services on behalf of our parents, children, siblings, spouses, co-workers, friends and our communities as a whole.
Centura Health is pursuing this revolution through an initiative we call Colorado Health Neighborhoods, which aims to move away from the current fee-for-service model that rewards volume instead of value, encouraging consumers to play a more active role in their health care. We want to create a system that promotes coordination among providers to produce demonstrably improved health outcomes at an affordable cost in a more convenient, service-oriented setting.
In order to accomplish this, Colorado Health Neighborhoods puts the consumer in the driver's seat, bringing together services and resources that are essential to well-rounded health care, including both medical services such as an urgent care center or a specialist physician, and services targeting health and wellness, such as coaches and online health literacy programs. We will always be there for you if you get sick, but what we really want to focus on is keeping you healthy.
We think Coloradans will embrace this change. We have heard from communities across the state that they want better value for their health and the health of their families. Together, we can tip the scales and create a system that rewards coordination, prevention and keeping people healthy. Because you see, health care, like health itself, is all about the choices we make.
Paul Chodkowski has been with the St. Anthony Summit Medical Center since February 2005. He is charged with the day-to-day management of a full-service, 35-bed acute care inpatient hospital with 250 employees.