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In LNP op-ed, President & CEO Jan Bergen describes how health system’s efforts now go well beyond “fixing” people who are injured or ill.

Jan Bergen, President & CEO

As president and CEO of Lancaster General Health, I’m privileged to work with more than 8,500 employees, physicians and volunteers who serve our community at Lancaster General Hospital, Women & Babies Hospital and scores of physician offices, outpatient centers, urgent care centers and retail clinics. These men and women, working throughout our county, inspire me daily with their dedication and skill.

The excellence of our employees, doctors and volunteers, however, is not really news. They’ve been meeting that standard for decades. Nor is it exactly news that the ways and locations in which LG Health provides services for our community have spread far beyond the traditional four walls of the hospital on Duke Street. Patient preference for convenient access to care requires hospitals to think beyond their traditional ways of doing things. These sorts of changes will continue to develop rapidly, especially with the explosion in mobile technologies.

What may be news to many people, however, is the work LG Health and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, of which we are a member, do to reach people before they show up in need at one of our facilities. Today, hospitals realize their mission is not simply to “fix” those who are injured or ill. Our mission — indeed, our responsibility — is to help prevent injury and illness, to promote health and healthy living, to partner with individuals and communities so they can take greater control of their health.

This “hospital” work is taking place well outside the hospital, in Lancaster County’s schools, neighborhoods, churches and workplaces. I believe this orientation toward promoting health and preventing illness and injury is one of the most important and exciting developments in the history of health care in our nation. For LG Health, it has required developing a new mindset about what it means to be healthy. It has broadened the scope of our mission and deepened our connection to the community.

Since the early 2000s, LG Health has worked to strengthen and focus our work on promoting community health. The Mission & Community Benefit Committee of our board oversees all our community benefit activities, establishes our local health priorities, and monitors the health status of the communities we serve. We regularly analyze federal, state and local data to identify our community’s most pressing health concerns. We select those issues that affect the most people, and which cost our community the most in either dollars or quality of life.

Based on this work, LG Health has identified three areas of focus for our community health outreach: fighting obesity, reducing tobacco and drug use, and improving access to mental health services. With action plans for each of these priorities, we conduct programs and activities that influence the individual, family, community and workplace. We also work to support policies that influence positive health outcomes.

This is not LG Health’s work alone. We are fortunate to partner with a wide range of organizations that share our goal for a healthier community, including other health-care providers such as WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital, the Lighten Up Lancaster Coalition (with more than 250 representatives from schools, governments and employers), and even the county’s Planning Commission — which looks at how development projects in the county can encourage walking, biking and other outdoor physical activity.

LG Health’s full 2016-2019 Community Health Improvement Plan is available on our website and includes complete details of the data we review, our community partners and the multitude of programs and services in place to address these important health issues. Similar information for the communities served by Penn Medicine can be found in its annual community benefits report, “Simply Because,” available on Penn Medicine’s website.

Clearly, the work of hospitals has moved well beyond what happens in our patient rooms, operating rooms or emergency departments. Of course, we will always need those services and will always be here to provide them. But I believe the focus on promoting and supporting the fundamental health of our community is both long overdue and tremendously exciting. Working together, we have real opportunities to touch people’s lives in a way that benefits them individually and our society as a whole. Healthy individuals are happier, more productive, more creative and better able to support themselves, their families and their communities.

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