The American Hospital Association long has believed that good health, "physical, mental and oral" is essential for a productive and vibrant America. In fact, as part of Health for Life, the AHA's roadmap for health reform, the hospital field called for a focus on wellness to be integrated into the life cycle and to be encouraged in our homes, schools, workplaces and communities.

But how can we get and keep people healthy so they can live fuller lives?

The AHA's Long-Range Policy Committee in 2010 sought to examine this question and the role hospitals play with their own employees. Committee members began their research by sharing their own organizations' wellness programs and their thoughts on expanding programs to their communities. The committee also heard from two external best-practice organizations, Johnson & Johnson and BlueCross BlueShield of Kansas City, and surveyed hospitals to identify current and emerging best practices.

Their final report, "A Call to Action: Creating a Culture of Health," issued this January, makes seven recommendations to the field. Specifically, it calls on hospitals to: serve as role models of community health; create cultures of healthy living; provide a variety of program offerings; provide positive and negative incentives; track participation and outcomes; measure for return on investment; and focus on sustainability.

The report highlights practices that hospitals use with their own employees, and recommendations to help hospitals continue to be health leaders in their communities. It also provides background on health and wellness programs and how they are incentivized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The report can be found at Please consider discussing it at your next board meeting. As individuals and community leaders, we have a role to play in creating and sustaining the health of our communities. But hospitals, as trusted community resources and providers of care, have an even greater imperative to model healthy behaviors. This report offers suggestions for taking the first step.

Penny Brooke ( is COG chair and a trustee of Intermountain Health Care Central Urban Region in Salt Lake City.