By Scott Robertson
Speaking after the final scheduled community forum regarding the proposed merger of Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System, MSHA Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer Tony Keck said the newly formed company (dubbed Newco as a working title until the company name is formally announced) will try to work as a coordinator for other agencies and organizations.
Healthcare alone cannot make people healthier, Keck said. “If we’re really going to improve the health of our region, we need a broad group of individuals and organizations that represent all the social determinants of health such as education, law enforcement, housing, healthcare providers and government, to get around the table, set some common goals and then all do their part in their unique way to actually move the region towards those goals.”
Just as Newco hopes to work more efficiently by eliminating unnecessary duplication of services in the healthcare marketplace, Keck said, it may be possible to bring organizations with complementary aims together to reach health improvement goals more efficiently.
Newco can help bring those groups together, Keck said. The key is to have broad buy-in to the concept of making the community healthier. “If we’re trying to reduce heart disease in a community, certainly one thing a provider like us can do is reach out and do more screenings for heart disease, but something that other employers might do is prohibit smoking in the workplace. Schools might get involved by running programs to keep kids and teens from starting smoking in the first place. Parks departments might create more green space for people to get outside. Roads departments might make it easier for people to walk as opposed to just drive. When you layer all these things on top of one another in a concerted effort, there’s evidence that you can make real progress in a community.”
The process of holding the ten public meetings regarding the merger has identified more than 140 individuals and organizations throughout Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia that can play a role in coordinating efforts, Keck said. “Through the merger we’re going to make dollars available to actually help fund programs in a sustainable way.”