Wide shot of the "Conversation on Community Health" event with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on February 6, 2013 in Denver.
What do bike paths, zip codes, and farmers markets, have to do with your own health? Everything, according to several participants in GSK's "Conversation on Community Health" in Denver held earlier this month.
Several GSK colleagues, including Deirdre Connelly, President of North America Pharmaceuticals, participated in the third of three conversations held in major and diverse US communities (Philadelphia and St. Louis) as part of a national initiative with The Atlanticto explore what it takes to be a healthy community.
I was really impressed with the people of Denver. Throughout the conversation, what came through again and again is that Denver is a forward-thinking, systems-oriented community that has a deep and sincere level of engagement and commitment to making health a reality for all.
I'm sure some of you reading this blog and not intimately familiar with Denver might wonder why a city known for its lean, healthy, and outdoorsy population would be selected as a stop on this three-city community health listening tour. Well, allow me to share with you some concerning data: despite being one of the leanest states in the nation, Colorado has an adult obesity rate that has doubled over the past 15 years--and--a childhood obesity rate that is rising faster than all but one other state.The health of residents varies depending on where they reside.Denver residents are seeing an improvement in the overall rates of heart disease, cancer, and violence; but obesity, mental illness, substance abuse, and tobacco use are on the rise. Bottom line: the Denver community was hungry for and ready to engage in a conversation on community health.
Throughout the event, a theme emerged: there is an inextricable link between individual health and larger community factors (economic, social, and environmental factors). These social determinants of health identified throughout the conversation ranged from the role of poverty and homelessness on health to the availability of bike trail and strong outdoor recreational infrastructure to fostering health. Indeed, several Denver leaders made the case that the community in which one is born, grows, lives, works, and ages plays the most significant role in an individual's health and wellness.
The insights we gathered through our community conversations, coupled with the insights from the soon-to-be-released national survey and the recent National Advisory Council meeting, will help inform what sort of role GSK might have in helping foster healthier communities. Please take a moment to share what you think are the barriers and opportunities for building healthier communities. Your contribution could help the future strategic direction of GSK's community partnerships and engagement in the US.