Do you use a wall or desk calendar? These days, many people keep their calendars on their phones, but the calendar companies still print their products, so somebody must be using them!
At this time of year you can buy a new calendar and breathe in the empty freshness of it. Inhale the possibilities! Many squares will fill soon enough, but that one exquisite moment of a year lying open before you lets your mind drift, even if briefly, to what you wish your year would be like.
My career has kept me in the healthcare field in various capacities in my homeland of the UK. Now I am president of the Church Health Center in Memphis, serving the people of Memphis to provide quality care and broaden our understanding of what constitutes health.
So if I were staring at an empty calendar and dreaming of what the next year in healthcare could bring, I would have five wishes.
- Primary care. I wish we could appreciate the essential role that primary care has as a bridge between treating the illness in front of us and creating the level of health that can prevent many chronic illnesses. Primary care is the way healthcare can reach into the neighborhoods of Memphis, where true health can be created.
- Prenatal care. I wish every woman could have effective, timely, and substantial prenatal care. If we could provide only one service on a universal scale, this should be it. Prenatal care affects both mother and baby over a lifespan.
- Person-centered care. I wish everyone could have care that moves from asking “What’s the matter?” to “What matters to you?” When I was a fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, CEO Maureen Bisognano asked this question persistently. If more of us asked it, if we better understood the people we care for not only as a population as a whole but also as individuals with values and aspirations, healthcare would be better connected to health.
- Proportionate overhead. I wish we would explore the value of what we deliver in healthcare and the costs we justify in order to do it. There might be better ways for organizations, even here in Memphis, to collaborate that would maximize the value we offer to the community while being more economical with costs.
- Practical humility. I wish those of us in healthcare would wrestle with the reality that while we get top billing, our medical services are only about 10 percent of the factors that lead to improved health over the course of a person’s life. This truth asks us to be humble and work alongside groups addressing the other 90 percent—education, safe neighborhoods, better jobs, availability of nutritious food, healthy relationships and so on.
Those are my five wishes for healthcare in Memphis. What are yours?
Antony Sheehan is president of the Church Health Center. With his wife and two daughters, he transplanted from England and still cheers relentlessly for Manchester United while trying to make sense of this thing Americans call football and sort out why so many Major League Baseball players have beards. Follow the fellow who follows the dream at www.antonysheehan.org.