HL20: Patrick J. Quinlan, MD—Reducing the Disease Load

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media , December 13, 2011

"We let our principles guide us to do what we are best at, and when a project goes beyond that scope we look for a partner. We can't step in for everyone; solving a problem like this is too big for just one organization," Quinlan explains. "We looked at where our presence would make the most a difference. … We know how to run clinics and we know we already have great food service and chefs and dietitians and the state's largest fitness center. So we said, let's start there and see if there's a willing audience."

Although they have covered a lot of ground, there's still plenty of work to do. In pilot programs, the fitness assessment baseline data showed that 35% of students were obese, 20% were overweight and only 16% met the minimum standards for aerobic capacity. Quinlan and his team are prepared for the challenge, and he is hopeful that other hospitals and health systems nationwide will follow suit in establishing such programs.

"We're not in banking or manufacturing; we take care of people. It's my hope that if we lead by example we can change the understanding of health in our community," says Quinlan. "We have to ask ourselves, 'what are we as a society doing to change the risk factors that give rise to disease?' Because in healthcare reform there is a debate about how to save money, and we rush past the problem. … If you're worried about cost, nothing is cheaper than a healthy person."

Karen Minich-Pourshadi is a Senior Editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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