Health figured prominently in the media headlines over the last few weeks. We all are watching with great interest to see what happens with health care coverage for many Americans at the national level. At the state and local levels, we continue to tirelessly work to prevent ill health and promote positive physical, mental, and emotional health.
Last week, a number of Family Development staff members attended the 2017 National Health Outreach Conference (NHOC) in Annapolis, MD. The conference provided many opportunities to learn about promoting health.
One important lesson I learned at this year’s conference centers on thinking about promoting healthy behaviors as a non-partisan issue, which unites us rather than divides us. Stephen Thomas, Ph.D., director of the University of Maryland Center for Health Equity, shared two stories that illustrated this principle.
@umdhealthequity Thomas talks @ addressing the 'wicked problems' to achieving health equity #NHOC2017 pic.twitter.com/8xzW1D9AED— Donna Shanklin (@drsala2010) May 3, 2017
The first story concerned a diabetes self-management program in Baltimore that resulted in dramatic changes in participants’ health. The second story centered on a free dental clinic that brought together unlikely partners, including a religious charities, politicians, the University of Maryland, dental professionals, and news media. This clinic provided free care to more than 1,100 individuals in one day. More than 1,500 individuals were turned away due to lack of capacity.
Dr. Thomas concluded that these kinds of efforts can help us set aside our political leanings and work together to address the "wicked problems" in achieving health equity. I've thought a great deal about Dr. Thomas’ presentation and the challenge he gave us to get beyond bi-partisanship to move the needle on health. This challenge has been on my mind especially because I had the privilege of extending an invitation to next year's conference, which will be held in Minnesota.
That’s right — University of Minnesota Extension is hosting NHOC on May 2 to 4, 2018 at the Radisson Blu Hotel near the Mall of America. Our vision for the conference focuses on bringing together Extension professionals and community leaders to develop transformative approaches to improving health. Our theme is Engaging in a Culture of Health: Making Waves in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
A video invitation shown at the NHOC meeting in Annapolis highlighted the exciting work going on in Minnesota and extended an invitation to attend the 2018 conference. Take a few minutes to watch the video.
Next, please put the date on your calendar. Regular updates will be provided over the next year through Family Matters. Also, please share information about the 2018 conference with your partners.
My hope for the 2018 conference is that we will highlight and learn about innovative efforts that help us bridge our differences and promote health equity. In addition, I want to consider what more we can do to build bridges with those we do not agree with, and to find common ground on promoting health.