Oregon Department of Human Services Director's Message
Feb. 19, 2010 DHS Director's messages on the web
To: All DHS employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., director

Many roads to better health and health care

"If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else."
~Booker T. Washington

Last week I gave a status report on where we are in the transition toward two agencies: DHS and the Oregon Health Authority.

This week I'd like to share information about our progress in meeting the goals of the Oregon Health Authority to improve the health of Oregonians, make health care more affordable for everyone, make Oregon the state with the highest quality health care in the nation, and ensure that all Oregonians can get the health care they need. Although just starting, our efforts have already received national recognition on a few fronts.

Our work to support the Oregon Health Authority and our electronic health records initiative led to Oregon being highlighted in the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation's "State of the States" report on states that made progress on health reform last year.

The report praises the creation of the Oregon Health Authority as a means to tackle, at a state level, long-standing issues that drive the health care crisis. The foundation also called out Oregon's innovative funding of the Healthy Kids plan and the addition of 35,000 low-income Oregonians to the Oregon Health Plan.

You can read the full report here. This report shows how much we have accomplished already and also how much we have left to do.

Finally, the same foundation also released this week a "Health Checkup" that compares the health of people in most U.S. counties.

The report uses five measures to assess the level of overall health or health outcomes. What I think is particularly important about this report is that it focuses not only on what care people receive when they go to the doctor, but also their own health behavior, where they live, and the social and economic factors that can affect the health of us all.

That gets to the heart of the Oregon Health Authority's work. We need to move from a heavy reliance on treating illnesses after they develop to more emphasis on prevention and public health. Many serious illnesses can be avoided if people have access to both affordable quality care and good health practices. For example, it's easier to get the 30 minutes of daily exercise that will help fight obesity, diabetes and heart disease if you have a neighborhood with sidewalks where you feel safe going for a walk. It is easier for families who don't live in poverty to afford healthy foods. It is easier to avoid destructive drug and alcohol addiction if there is local and affordable treatment available. The cleaner our air, water and environment are, the healthier we will be. We must build not only our health care infrastructure but our entire communities with an eye toward health, healthy living and public health.

Some Oregon counties did better than others. For details see the entire report.

What is clear is no one single answer will resolve the health care crisis. In Oregon we are moving quickly on all fronts. Our health is more than a diagnosis in a doctor's office. It's how we live, where we live, and what opportunities we have. And as we work to improve our health and our communities, we will also be working with health care providers to lower the cost of providing care, whether that is through electronic health records, a prescription drug pool or other methods.

Oregon cannot wait – and isn't waiting – for national health care reform. The news this month shows we are making real progress and will continue to do so.

DHS on the web