Friday, March 02, 2007

Community Issues - from the "Executive of the Year"

In remarks at a recent lunch in her honor as The Business Journal's "Executive of the Year", Mary Brainerd highlighted three significant community issues.

The first of these is the importance of addressing social and economic disparities in order to maintain the economic vitality of the Twin Cities region. Our region can make substantial, long-term progress only if all residents have opportunities to participate as productive community members. Reports from the Itasca Project, which is primarily a coalition of business leaders, have shown that reducing disparities is not only the morally right thing to do; it's the smart thing to do for economic growth.

The second issue is that mental illness is a major, unaddressed problem. Addressing it effectively will require collaborative action among health care systems, community organizations, government, and others. As a member of the Board of the Hamm Clinic, I've heard first hand from our Executive Director, Dr. Jim Jordan, and others about the need to work together to conquer mental illness - in an environment where the issues have not yet become understood by most members of the community and where health care systems often cannot yet provide comprehensive and specialized treatment.

Third, she pointed to the high cost of health care. This cost stresses everyone: health care providers; insurers; government; business; and, of course, all of us as individual patients. In the opinion of many people (I assume Mary Brainerd is included.), we should have the highest quality and most accessible health care in the world. Sadly, we do not. Issues of cost, disagreement over who ought to pay, and other bureaucratic and legal obstacles have gotten in our way.

Ms. Brainerd wants to champion these issues. I'm very pleased that someone of her competence and character is doing so. (A business executive with degrees in both philosophy and management - maybe that's why she's so effective.) As testimony from several community leaders at the lunch indicated, many others throughout the Twin Cities are pleased as well!

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