Ask the Healthy RN: Change Something

by Joey Traywick, RN, CMSRN

“In order to change something, you must first measure something.”

This is a quote from a book that impressed me very much several years ago called “Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance” by Atul Gawande. I would highly recommend any of his writings but in this particular instance he was referring to controlling infection rates in our hospitals; a worthy goal. And he is right. In order to lower the infection rates or increase the adherence of hand hygiene one must first know where the current measurements lie. Measuring something like how many times I wash my hands in any given shift may seem easy but when you consider variables such as antiseptic hand gel and the wearing of gloves or the infernal skin breakdown that can occur on hands that are repeatedly cleansed dozens of times a day, it can become a bit more convoluted.

Now imagine trying to measure the health of our community, or our state. Conceptualize the task of measuring something as broad as health in a place as large as our city or county. That is exactly what “The Alliance “ (a coalition between St. Vincent Healthcare, Riverstone Health and Billings Clinic) and the “Healthy by Design Community Coalition” did when they released the 2016-2017 Community Health Needs Assessment this month.

You can read it for yourself here:

And I would encourage you to read it for yourself. Why? Because it is a look in the mirror.

I don’t mean to seem cynical or pessimistic but I did think that the opening sentence in the Billings Gazette news article summed up the report fairly adequately when it said: “The overall health and mental health of Yellowstone County residents is worse than it was a dozen years ago, even though they have access to more treatment and are seeking it out, a recent report shows.” (from the Gazette’s article: “Yellowstone County’s top health issues are mental health, substance abuse, obesity” Jan 7th, 2017)

According to the article, we have more access but decreased health overall. How could that be? The answer my friend, is blowing in wind. And through the pages of this magazine. And through the countless workout DVDs and websites and apps and books and studies that have been trying to solve our problem for decades. The answer is personal responsibility.

PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY… All caps really makes me feel better. The lack of PR is why we could have more access with worsening outcomes. No matter how many gyms we have in town or how many locally grown grocery stores open up ~ if we don’t access our personal responsibility mechanisms, we will continue to see lowering health outcomes in our community. As we continue to measure the overall health of our communities and the access to health providers let us not overlook the essential ingredient that will change ANY of those things; our responsibility to make up our own minds to utilize the resources at our disposal to improve ourselves. The information is out there and it is in here. Are we making the most of it? That’s not just a personal question – it is a question of personal responsibility.

Oh! And by the way, this week’s question was:
Dear Joey,
Should I really look both ways before I cross the street?
The Chicken

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