How Health Care Supports Sustainable Communities
As the public hospital in Cleveland, and one of the city’s oldest institutions, MetroHealth has spent the past 180 years, turning around the lives of patients other people didn’t want to be bothered with.
One of our favorite turnarounds isn’t about a patient at all, it’s about Endia Reynolds, a junior at the high school inside our hospital. Endia is the youngest of eight. One of her sisters is a nursing assistant. Her brother owns a towing company. The rest of her siblings are just getting by.
Truth be told, Endia was just getting by, too. She didn’t like school, didn’t want to be there, didn’t care about her grades. Then, back in February, she spent half a day in our Life Flight communications office. And she fell in love.
It wasn’t the excitement of watching a helicopter land at the scene of a car crash. Or the adrenaline rush of doctors and nurses bandaging wounds and starting IVs inside the helicopter to save their lives. Or the Life Flight crew racing down a hallway as they rushed three gurneys, with the mother, father and their sobbing little girl, into our trauma center.
It was the teamwork.
“Everybody’s on their devices these days,” the 16-year-old told us. “You don’t see people working together anymore.”
After that day, Endia couldn’t wait to come to school, asking her assistant principal every day “When can I go back to Life Flight?”
She started studying harder, getting better grades, telling her brothers and sisters she was going to make their wish come true. She was going to be the first in their family to go to college. She was going to become a Life Flight nurse.
There are people who think a health care organization has no business opening a high school inside its hospital. There are others who think we have no business hiring employees with developmental disabilities, no business working to turn abandoned old buildings in our neighborhood into beautiful apartments, no business holding the city’s only transgender job fair, no business teaching healthy Spanish cooking to our Latino neighbors or spending money to improve the bus route along our hospital campus.
But our mission is to create a healthier community. And that means doing more than splinting broken bones and radiating tumors.
If you want a healthier community, you don’t just treat illness. You prevent it. And you don’t prevent it by telling people to quit smoking, eat right and exercise. You help them find jobs and places to live and engaging schools so they can pass all that good on, so they can build solid futures and healthy neighborhoods and communities filled with hope.
I’m not telling you about our programs to brag. It’s just the opposite. I’m telling you about them because we need to do more. We all need to do more.
Each of us has a social responsibility to bring people together from a variety of disciplines with the goal of developing solutions that work for everyone, that better our world no matter what line of work we’re in.
In Cleveland, we have hundreds of examples of these alliances from the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking; to a community-wide initiative to prevent infant deaths; to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s partnerships with more than 100 schools, churches, libraries and other organizations to make sure children have a healthy lunch in the summer.
Those programs do so much more than save people from hunger and trafficking and death.
We know, for example, that a well-fed child sleeps better and learns better, is sick less and worries less, has a much better chance of succeeding and becoming whatever it is she dreams of becoming.
And in health care, we know people don’t get sick nearly as often or as seriously when they have jobs and health insurance and good educations and safe neighborhoods. So why wouldn’t we work to provide those things? Sure, they cost money and take time and buckets of luck, too.
But the payoff? It’s not just Endia. It’s hundreds of Endias. She’s found her calling, her reason for being, her future – a future that includes a promising career, a good salary, more tax money for her city, her state, her country and a lot less stress for her and those around her. That’s before you figure in her happiness. And ours.
Looking out for others, doing what’s right, doing good has been good for MetroHealth, too. Patients notice. So do community leaders and foundations and donors and the people who do business with us or want to do business with us. Their support has grown with every new chance we’ve taken.
What was once none of our business is good for our business. It’s good for yours, too. Which is why we’re telling our story. It’s a reminder for us to do more. And, we hope, to encourage others to do the same.
We hope you’ll give it a try. And if you already have a project underway, that you’ll expand it or add another.
Then share your story – not about a patient or customer or client – about someone whose life you never expected to change for the better.
You’ll inspire somebody else. They’ll do more good. And we’ll all be better off.
That’s everybody’s business.
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Read more from the Meeting of the Minds Blog
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
A recent study by the International Downtown Association reports that vibrant downtowns contain around 3% of citywide land, but contain 14% of all citywide retail and food and beverage businesses, and 35% of all hotel rooms. This results in $53 million in sales tax per square mile, compared to the citywide average of $5 million. Not to mention that downtown residential buildings also add to the tax base. In the 24 cities included in the study, residential growth in these downtowns outpaced the rest of the city by 400% between 2010 and 2016.
Partnerships between city officials and contractors result in new and visionary downtown destinations. Along with large vertical construction projects, there are opportunities for countless other projects, including parking structures, enhanced Wi-Fi, landscaping, pedestrian and biking paths, and traffic improvements.
Ordered city geometry that is built today is meaningless for energy cycles. Resilient networks contain inherent diversity and redundancy, with optimal cooperation among their subsystems, yet they avoid optimization (maximum efficiency) for any single process. They require continuous input of energy in order to function, with energy cycles running simultaneously on many different scales.
Short-term urban fixes only wish to perpetuate the extractive model of cities, not to correct its underlying long-term fragility!
TDM, when employed, works. TDM agencies around the country use a treasure’s trove of strategies to get people out of cars and onto trains, buses, and bikes, which is something that has to happen if we don’t want our roads to become unusable due to traffic and environmental congestion.
But one major problem with the practice of TDM is that it has had a hard time making the case that it is a cost-effective alternative or at least add-on to big infrastructure projects. It seems pretty obvious that teaching people, educating them, about how to use our systems will make those systems run more smoothly. But there has never been a great way to back up that assumption with hard numbers.