Changes in society and the healthcare system are challenging healthcare executives to do more than provide medical services. Leaders now take broader responsibility for the health and well-being of the people and communities they serve. Health—the “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (World Health Organization 1944)—is determined by four forces: environment, heredity, lifestyle, and medical care services. Healthcare managers who want to improve the health of their served populations must improve these forces.
Strategic and operational lessons can be learned from the pioneering work done by several hospitals, health plans, and healthcare systems to improve their local environment, heredity, lifestyles, and medical care services. Managers who wish to improve health in their communities should strongly embrace and commit to “health” rather than mere “medical services” in their mission, vision, and values. They should collaborate with many other organizations and people—such as schools, churches, police, and businesses—to build partnerships that extend beyond the healthcare sector into the total community. Healthcare organizations should provide some resources and funds to improve the health of their served populations, and they should view this commitment as an investment (especially if there are capitated lives) rather than as an expense. They should also obtain public and private grant funds and leverage the resources of their collaborative partners to improve their local environment, heredity, lifestyles, and medical care services. Finally, leaders can advocate and support public policy that would improve the four forces that shape health.