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OHA Director: Medical care is only a small part of overall health

With only 10% of a person’s health tied to what happens at the doctor’s office, the director of the Oregon Health Authority said everyone has to work together to improve community health and control rising health care costs.

“This whole system depends on partners,” OHA Director Patrick Allen said Wednesday during a Rogue Community Health luncheon in Medford attended by people involved in health care, public safety, politics, social services, business and other sectors.

Researchers say lifestyle decisions account for 53% of a person’s health, environment influences 21% and genetics play a role in 16%. Those factors total a 90% impact on health — much more than the 10% attributed to medical care.

“As we’ve seen, we can’t do this alone,” Allen said.

Allen said overall health care costs are projected to grow 4.7% — outpacing inflation and wage growth.

The Oregon Health Authority and coordinated care organizations that provide Oregon Health Plan benefits have a goal to hold cost growth to 3.4%. At the same time, they aim to improve the health of patients.

One-in-four Jackson County residents is on the Oregon Health Plan.

Since OHP eligibility was expanded, the number of adult Oregonians with some form of health insurance has grown from about 80% to 94%. The coverage rate is even better for kids, with 97% covered, Allen said.

Oregon is a pioneer in integrating physical, mental and dental health.

“The system focuses on health, not just health care,” Allen said.

The integrated system appears to be working.

In 2011, 59% of people who got OHP benefits through a coordinated care organization reported better health. By 2015, that number had grown to 72%, Allen said.

The coordinated care organizations are making progress on getting patients appropriate care in the appropriate setting, he said.

Avoidable emergency room visits fell 50% from 2011 to 2016, Allen noted.

“That’s a huge decrease in health care that is really expensive and not necessarily what people need,” he said.

Locally, the nonprofit health care provider Rogue Community Health has an innovative strategy to address issues that could be hurting the health of its patients.

The organization adapted a Head Start screening form to its own uses, and now asks patients whether they need assistance with issues such as housing, food, transportation, utilities, job training, mental health, parenting, legal aid or dealing with traumatic childhood experiences that can have long-lasting effects.

About 10% to 20% of patients indicate they do need help in at least one of those areas. Rogue Community Health then addresses their issues or refers them to other service providers who can help, said William North, chief executive officer of the organization.

Rogue Community Health is trying to break down barriers to care and help people navigate the complex system of services that’s available locally. The organization follows the motto that there is no wrong door to access essential services.

North said Rogue Community Health is on the cutting edge of integrating health care, social services and education.

Like Allen, North said the community has to work together to improve everyone’s overall health while curbing costs.

Also at the luncheon, Dr. Bill Southworth was given the 2019 Forsyth Community Health Award for his years of work in the community, including his volunteer service to Rogue Community Health.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Dr. Eric Schichor checks a participant's blood pressure at Mazza Gallerie in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, March 15, 2016. Schichor is retired and volunteers his time at every mall walking session. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Heidi de Marco, Kaiser Health News.