This month's cover story on community partnerships is one of my favorites this year. It's the story of inventive, in-the-trenches teamwork among hospitals, social service agencies, religious organizations and other local groups combating the barriers to wellness that exist outside hospital walls—barriers like food deserts, lack of transportation and rural isolation. Each initiative is the product of cooperation, something that seems in awfully short supply these days.
The low-tech nature of these initiatives makes their outcomes especially impressive. And by low-tech, I mean they don't require MRIs, IT analysis or major surgery with general anesthesia and a six-week recovery. They are the results of conversations and coordination, and they reach places that hospitals can't—into neighborhoods, homes and even refrigerators. Their extraordinary successes are largely the product of ordinary citizens willing to intervene. They are as simple as a ride to the grocery store or a walk around the mall, yet they are life-changing. They don't just educate people about healthy lifestyles, they empower them to make the right decisions.
The story reminds me of Margaret Mead's famous quote: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." I have no doubt that the committed citizens in these partnerships have changed the world. In the 11 percent drop in teen binge drinking in Buffalo County, Neb., lives have been saved. The push to increase access to healthier foods in Raleigh, N.C., has improved quality of life for one generation and has built a healthier foundation for the next one. And efforts to reduce the number of uninsured children in Sierra Vista, Ariz., mean better medical care sooner for needy kids.
Mead's quotation applies nicely to trustees too. You are another group of thoughtful, committed citizens changing the world, starting with your hospital and your community.