MHA Montana Health Improvement Initiative making Montana a “Top 10 Healthy State”

By: 
Dick Brown - Helena, MT

Montana is the healthiest state in the nation – when it comes to managing the state budget. Studies also place us in the “Top 10” for business tax climate, entrepreneurship, and growth in high-tech jobs, per capita income and exports. As a native Montanan, I appreciate the value of state rankings in attracting economic opportunity to the Big Sky. However, not all of our rankings are favorable, and your local hospital is committed to improving one in particular: population health.
Montana is not the healthiest state in the nation. In fact, when it comes to the overall health of residents, Montana barely ranks in the top half of the U.S., according to America’s Health Rankings. To improve this status, the Montana Hospital Association has launched the MHA Montana Health Improvement Initiative. Our goal is to create healthier communities and ultimately a healthier state of Montana by supporting hospitals and health systems in their efforts to transform the way care is delivered.
As a statewide membership association of hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home health, hospice and other critical service providers, MHA is uniquely positioned to support the advancement of population health by strategically selecting priority areas that can be dramatically improved through state and community partnerships. Over the past year, MHA has engaged in extensive collaboration with health experts from a variety of settings to identify the key issues that may have the greatest impact in improving the health status of our state. Last month, we finalized directives to make meaningful improvements in the established priority areas and will officially launch the plan on Sept. 29 at the MHA Fall Convention and Trade Show in Billings.
Taking into consideration two nationally recognized programs around which to build a framework for assessing health – (1) America’s Health Rankings, an annual report produced by United Health Foundation, and (2) County Health Rankings, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – the 2016 MMHII priority health focus areas have been defined as: increasing access to health care; increasing child and adolescent immunizations; decreasing the prevalence of obesity; and decreasing premature deaths linked to motor vehicle injury, suicide and other lifestyle factors.
As additional priorities and goals are established, progress reports will be made available to the public. In support of our mission to remain transparent and accountable for the initiative, we will also be posting updates on our website at www.mtha.org, and on MHA’s Facebook or Twitter pages under the hashtag #HealthyMT.
The MMHII vision is a healthier Montana by 2020. With active community support, we can make Montana a “Top 10 Healthy State” and celebrate with confidence that Montana is truly the ‘Last Best Place’ to call home.

Dick Brown is president/CEO of the Montana Hospital Association, located in Helena.

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