The good life we currently enjoy, professionally and personally, did not come about by chance; it is the result of a series of efforts by our forebears, both medical leaders as well as community business leaders; and is in danger of slipping away from us.  Long-term projections for the economic and physical health of our region show a slow but steady decline.  This is serious.  Two organizations – co-lead an initiative – which gives all of us in our community a path to fixing this, and you will want to understand how it works.

First, Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance (GLBRA).  Visionary business leaders from 4 counties, Bay, Saginaw, Midland, and Isabella, have long been touting the benefits of our region and attempting to entice new businesses to re-locate here.  Tough job, but they have been doing yeoman’s work.  Their successes have included STEM programs, getting our workforce ready for the 21st century jobs.  They’ve spent a lot of time assessing the needs of our businesses and inevitably had to come to grips with the fact that health care costs in our region are high and getting higher; employee health is poor and getting poorer; employee productivity is impaired by health issues, and this is getting worse; some employees exhibit dangerous behaviors (i.e. violence) which risk life and health; and all this information is well-known and off-putting to businesses who are considering relocating to our area.  GLBRA realized that, in order to transform the business community in our region, they needed to focus on improving the health of our communities and vitality of our local economy.

Second, Michigan Health Improvement Alliance (MiHIA).  An organization established in 2007, focused on improving population health, quality of care, cost of care, and physician well-being.  Their region includes 14-counties, include the Great Lakes Bay Region, with a visionary board of directors including our own Drs Baase, Kikano, Ververka, and Coughlin. MiHIA has coordinated an exceptional health dashboard which is public. They have also specifically championed projects to improve prenatal care, developed a regional opioid strategy, and brought programming to the region to prevent diabetes and obesity.  They have cataloged the myriad health and healthcare challenges that beset our community, patients and physicians.  They have come to some of the same conclusions as GLBRA, but also point out how many great actions in our communities led by a variety of organizations could have much more positive impact with the optimal scale, sustainable funding, integrated and aligned efforts  MiHIA realized that, in order to transform health in our region, we also need to transform the economy.

Two organizations, intersecting needs.  One primarily health and one primarily business, but ultimate goals somehow the same.  Yet they’re classically conflicting cultures: Town vs Gown, East vs West, Oil vs Water. Any way you put it, these groups usually don’t mix, do they?  Well, they can and they do.  For the last two years representatives from GLBRA and MiHIA along with dozens of community leaders,  have combined to form a visionary initiative called THRIVE (Transforming Healthcare In a Vibrant Economy) to spearhead nothing less than a complete re-make (transformation) of our health and economic ecosystems.  I’m not kidding.  That’s their plan.  They’ll coordinate and help secure hundreds of MILLIONS of dollars (gleaned from multiple local, state, and national sources) on 34 projects or interventions that will, over the next two decades, TURN AROUND our region of Michigan into a vibrant growing community, with improving health, enhanced productivity, decreased chronic disease, more people getting treatment for their mental health issues, less risky health behaviors, better education, more and higher paying jobs.  This is the sort of thing you’ll read about in business magazines: “old-rust-belt-economy-in forgotten-area-of-Michigan-growing-like-silicon-valley”.  Now that’s a vision I’d like to see.

Some of the 34 action areas directly affecting us include tackling physician burnout, solving the appalling shortage of primary care doctors, and reducing revenue-draining patient visits outside our area.

About Dr. Louis Constan
Dr. Constan grew up in Chicago, came to the Great Lakes Bay Region in 1972 where he trained in Family Medicine and fell in love with this community.  At heart, he is an old-fashioned country doctor who, during his career, made house calls, delivered babies, set bones, and did surgery; but was never afraid to get involved in creating hospital policies and supporting academic medicine through teaching medical students and Resident doctors.  Along the way Dr. Constan has received many honors, including Family Physician of the Year for Michigan in 2006, and the Governor’s Award for Excellence in 2005.  He considers health education one of his prime roles, is a frequent community lecturer on health topics, has been published in many newspapers and magazines, and is proud to be able to continue doing so for Michigan Health Improvement Alliance (MiHIA) and their shared THRIVE initiative.