Frist’s NashvilleHealth seeking participants for diverse working groups tackling poor child health, smoking, hypertension
Former United States Senator Bill Frist, an acclaimed heart and lung transplant surgeon, has worked on public health issues for decades. As Senator beginning in 1994 and Majority Leader from 2003 to 2007, he worked on legislation concerning medical issues such as global AIDS outreach to stem the spread, stem cell research, and Medicare reform. Today he’s focusing on Nashville, where public health can really use a shot in the arm.
While the $70 billion healthcare services industry in Nashville gives the city a reputation as a premier healthcare center, we continue to rank at the bottom 20 percent in most national health assessments, according to Caroline Young, former president of Nashville Health Care Council.
Frist founded a new community-wide initiative, NashvilleHealth, last fall, with the stated goal of “making Nashville one of the healthiest places to live in the state and the nation by achieving measurable gains in the health of all residents.” He selected Young to run the show. The group aims to pull the community together to work on this, including those in the trenches of public health, those working tangentially – such as Walk/Bike Nashville – and those in unrelated private businesses. A focused community health organizing group has worked well in other cities, Young says, noting specifically Live Well San Diego, a group that brings together 150 diverse partners.
First order of business for NashvilleHealth is pulling together working groups for three top priorities: smoking prevention and cessation, reducing hypertension, and improving child health. Those groups are forming now, and will begin meetings as early as next month.
Some solutions may include current programs that are less utilized than they could be, such as the Tennessee Tobacco Quitline 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) that offers a free quit kit and coach.
Other solutions will likely come from programs outside the state. Leading experts from around the country in government, academia and public health will be invited to make presentations on programs that have had proven success, Young says.
Young would like to see individuals from government, community and the private sector to step up and join the effort. “I’d like to encourage groups that haven’t been engaged before,” she says. “Everybody has a role to play in community health.”
NashvilleHealth comes under the umbrella of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, and Metro Nashville Department of Health, the State of Tennessee, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University are all on board.
The three initial working groups will have 20 to 25 members. Anyone wishing to participate may contact info@NashvilleHealth.org.
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