Bill Frist, M.D., Guest Columnist
The Tennessean Published 6:00 p.m. CT Oct. 31, 2018
How healthy is Nashville? At first glance, we may seem to be doing well. Very well, in fact.
After all, we’re home to world-class hospitals, two medical schools, a dental school and several nursing schools. Not to mention the 18 publicly-traded health care companies based here.
But, when we look deeper, what do we find? The honest answer is, it’s difficult to make an accurate diagnosis of Nashville’s health. The information needed simply isn’t available.
That’s why the Metro Public Health Department and NashvilleHealth have launched the Nashville Community Health + Well-being Survey, a foundational, county-wide survey of the health of Davidson County residents.
The survey will reach 12,000 residents to collect information on health behaviors such as smoking and exercise habits, chronic health conditions like diabetes and asthma, and use of preventive services such as immunizations.
A comprehensive health survey of this magnitude has not been conducted in Nashville in nearly 20 years. Most data currently used to understand the health and wellness of Davidson County residents is based on estimates from larger state and national research.
Take diabetes as an example. According to the latest from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Diabetes Statistics Report, there were 817,000 diabetes cases in the state of Tennessee in 2014.
For Davidson County, there are conflicting reports on the prevalence of diabetes, some high and some low, and there are no data sources that provide insight into the number of new cases of diabetes each year.
Unfortunately, the only accurate information we have about diabetes in Nashville is the death rate from diabetes, which comes from death certificates.
How do we as a community plan a path forward toward a healthier city without a map to guide us? How do we best allocate our health dollars and resources? How do we evaluate our work?
Without good information, it is nearly impossible for health professionals and other public and private organizations to know what treatment plan to choose, where to focus efforts, what kinds of policies and programs should be implemented and how to evaluate the effectiveness of these interventions.
That’s why the Community Health + Well-Being Survey is so critical. This survey will give Nashville comprehensive baseline data—data that does not exist today—to set future priorities and better address the needs of our community. It will serve as the foundation for improving and promoting the health of our city.
But, this survey will not be successful without your participation.
If you the Nashville Community Health + Well-being Survey reaches your mailbox, it is vital that you take it. You can complete the survey online or on paper, and if you don’t have access to a computer or the internet, you can use the computer lab at your neighborhood library.
The survey will be offered in both English and Spanish and should take about 20 minutes to complete.
Your responses will help us make an accurate diagnosis of Nashville’s health. This diagnosis will inform and guide the treatment plan — the work of non-profits, businesses, and government organizations to better serve the needs of our community.
With all of us working together in this collaborative effort, we can make Nashville a healthier place to live.
Sen. Bill Frist M.D., is founder and chairman of NashvilleHealth. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1995 to 2007, ending his service as Senate majority leader.
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