The U.S. is bracing for a challenging start to 2021 – managing a continued rise in COVID-19 cases and fatalities, working to distribute a nationwide vaccine to an increasingly wary public, all while ushering in a new federal administration and the changes that brings. The one constant? Local and municipal governments are our front line, and this year (more than ever), mayors, city council members, and other local government officials have the opportunity to improve our nation’s health.
Whether it’s driving down costs, improving access to care, or generating more effective healthcare outcomes for citizens and employees, local governments play a vital role. Marathon Health, one of the country’s largest public and private employer-based healthcare providers, helps local governments tackle healthcare challenges and save money on their healthcare spend at the same time. Using evidence-based clinical care and total population health management services, Marathon Health helps a city identify employees with chronic health conditions and better manage their care while driving engagement across the entire employee population to address health needs.
“Today, the job of running a city is the job of creating a healthy city. The most important step is managing health-related issues and costs for city employees. Healthy employees have to be a priority so that, in turn, they can provide the best possible service to citizens,” said Larry Morrissey, Marathon Health’s vice president of government affairs and former mayor of Rockford, Illinois. “When local government commits to proactive, clinical interventions for its employees, costs go down, and health improves. Everyone wins.”
Since the City of Rockford began working with Marathon Health when Morrissey was mayor, it has realized over $23 million in cumulative savings on its health plan and an ROI of over 4 to 1, along with continued improvement in the health of the city employees.
Here, Morrissey shares some tips for local governments:
TIP 1: Targeted health intervention saves time and money
Every community has public members who become “frequent fliers” for fire, law enforcement, and EMS personnel – citizens with chronic health issues that often utilize the 911 system to access care. Communities that can work in partnership with insurance companies, hospital systems, and other medical providers are proactively intervening to address these chronic health conditions, mental health, and substance abuse problems. By using data to identify at-risk individuals and intervening prior to the 911 call, local governments are experiencing better outcomes for constituents and lower costs for taxpayers.
TIP 2: Environmental and socioeconomic factors have far greater impact on health than medical care
Communities that prioritize proactive and holistic health services have lower costs and healthier communities. According to research by the World Health Organization, the community where someone lives has a far greater influence on health outcomes than the medical care they receive. In fact, medical care accounts for only 10-20% of health outcomes, with 60% or more attributed to environmental factors known as the social determinants of health. Taking social determinants of health into consideration, mayors and municipal leaders are uniquely positioned to make lasting health improvements for their communities.
TIP 3: Big issues – like homelessness – are possible to manage if you make them personal
Rockford Ill became the first community in the nation to reach the “Functional Zero” definition of ending Veteran homelessness. Step one in reaching this goal was to take a population health management approach to the problem, which meant identifying every homeless veteran by name. Case managers, social workers, and other partners then met monthly as a team in HIPPA compliant meetings to share details on outreach and develop solutions to address each homeless veteran’s specific needs. Providing customized support for each individual with tailored outreach has led to life-changing improvements for these veterans.
TIP 4: Prioritize your own employees when it comes to proactive healthcare
If frontline workers like police officers, firefighters, and teachers are not healthy, they will not be in the best position to help others. First responders who respond to medical and law enforcement emergencies too frequently forgo care themselves, especially when it comes to mental or behavioral health. For example, we know rates of suicide, substance abuse, and domestic violence are higher for frontline workers often because mental health goes unaddressed. And teachers can face similar challenges, especially with the multiple additional stresses of teaching in a COVID impacted learning environment. And, sadly, there continues to be a stigma associated with getting help.
Creating confidential interactions for these public service professionals is key. If your city or town does not have its own employee health center with trained counselors (every Marathon Health clinician is trained in providing basic mental health services), you can create a peer-support program to deliver prevention-based support.
TIP 5: Continuously challenge the status quo
The majority of calls to a community’s 911 center ultimately are rooted in health challenges. Fire service calls are much more frequently tied to a medical emergency as opposed to a building fire. Law enforcement officers are often first on scene for a car accident, drug overdose, or mental health crisis. Instead of waiting for a crisis to occur, many of these challenges can be addressed proactively. In Rockford, the Fire Department was the first in the state of Illinois to be licensed to provide Mobile Integrated Health (MIH). This means that the City can provide preventative care services at a citizen’s home instead of waiting for an emergency call. Game changer. If you look outside the traditional norms, you can often find great alternatives.