Health is Created in Community

Rudy Fedrizzi, MD delivered the following remarks during Hannah Grimes Center’s CONNECT 2015 Event.

We’d all be a whole lot healthier if we’d do the sorts of things that nature designed us to do — such as eat whole foods right from the farm and walk everywhere that we’d like to go.

And we’d be a whole lot healthier if we came together in supportive communities, since it is also in our nature to be cooperative and altruistic and socially connected and in relationship with one another.

But there are lots of barriers to doing healthy things, right?

If we’re going to improve health we’re going to have to overcome barriers and become “Communities of Solutions.”  We need to believe that great things are possible — such as becoming the healthiest community in the nation.

Rudy Fedrizzi, MD during Hannah Grimes Center’s CONNECT 2015 Event. Photo Credit: Lee Germeroth Photography
Rudy Fedrizzi, MD during Hannah Grimes Center’s CONNECT 2015 Event. Photo Credit: Lee Germeroth Photography

Healthy Communities: More Than Medical Care

As a physician, I want to let you in on a secret: If we’re going to create the healthiest community we need to look beyond medical care.

At its technical best, medicine is great a fixing broken bones and saving you from appendicitis.  At it’s caring best, medicine can help manage chronic conditions and prevent disease through things — such as immunizations and screening for issues — before you develop a disease.

But, health is really created in community — helping one another.

  • It’s created in families … through love, breastfeeding infants, attentive parenting and grand-parenting, eating together at the dinner table, and talking face-to-face (not texting one another!) across the table.
  • It’s created on your street … through knowing your neighbors, having sidewalks and safe areas to walk, watching out for each others children like they’re your own, paying teens to rake leaves and shovel driveways.
  • It’s created in schools … where kids walk and bike to school, are eager and prepared to learn, where they eat wholesome foods, play and exercise, and are mentored by caring adults who are not their parents.
  • It’s created in businesses … where we do meaningful work and aren’t overly stressed, and are paid a living wage (since a minimum wage is an unhealthy wage), and we don’t sit all day since immobility is the new tobacco.
  • It’s created in our clubs and our places of worship … where we make friends and can be of service to others, because 10 friends together at the Rotary or Lion’s Club beats 500 “friends” on Facebook.
  • And it’s supported by our laws and policies … where as a society we try to keep our environment smoke-free, try to reduce gun violence, provide a safety net for those less fortunate, try to keep alcohol and tobacco from vulnerable teens, and try to make health coverage affordable for all. Voting can be a public health intervention.

Together, We Create a Culture of Health

When we come together, we create a shared culture of health.  And we’re less likely to be complacent with injustice and disparity because what challenges you, challenges me.

My 10-year-old daughter has little chance of becoming a smoker, or becoming pregnant as a teen, or ever developing diabetes because she has the good luck of having educated and married parents who make a good income. While a classmate, two desks down — whose mother is a single parent with only a high school education, and making just above minimum wage — has 5 to 10 times the chance of becoming addicted to tobacco, or having an undesired pregnancy, or becoming diabetic.

Our community shouldn’t stand for that inequity.

So in the coming weeks as you sit with friends and family, talk and eat together, you are practicing the best medicine — more powerful medicine than I ever practiced as a physician.

You are expanding social connections and building social capital.  We are Better Together … and together we can create and live in the nation’s healthiest community.

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