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Annual health summit attracts public, private executives

By ALAN TURNER

The annual Healthcare Summit was held last week at Mississippi College.  Sponsored by Mississippi College and the Mississippi Business Group on Health, the focus revolves around “The Business of Healthcare”.

As we all know, the cost of providing health-care coverage for employees is one of the fastest growing costs of doing business, in Mississippi and all other states.  A key topic of this year’s event revolved around the promotion of wellness, and how companies of all sizes can get involved in developing wellness programs for employees.

At a panel discussion, Billy Sims, President of the Business Group on Health and a Vice President at Southern Farm Bureau, discussed some of the key steps businesses need to make to create an effective wellness program.

These include: defining a plan using evidence based strategies; dedicating some staff to managing the day to day wellness program; creating a healthy workplace and culture; and benchmarking with the HERO health management scorecard.

The panelists, who also included Ed Hagar, manager of compensation & benefits at Ingalls Shipbuilding, and Lorie Larsen, senior benefits manager at Levi Strauss, agreed that wellness “isn’t just for large companies”.

“You can start small and work your way up to a full and effective program,” said Lorie.

There was also discussion of the importance of “wellness champions,” that is, people at the staff level who are committed to the mission of wellness and work to inspire others at all levels.

Ed Hagar said that Ingalls has opened family medical centers at its locations in Mississippi and Virginia, and that’s going very well.  The focus at Ingalls, he related, has shifted from health insurance to health maintenance, disease prevention, and wellness.”

“And that’s paying dividends for us,” he said.

The keynote speaker for the event was Congressman Gregg Harper, who has become instrumental in Congress in telehealth issues, which the congressman said are going to be very important to the future of health care.

“In fact,” he said, “Mississippi has more or less become the ‘gold standard’ in how telehealth is done.”

Defining himself as a “strong supporter of technology solutions for health care needs,” he also suggested that “regulations are in some cases preventing things moving forward on a timely basis.”

He’s hopeful that hurdle can be overcome, because “we see an emerging shortage of physicians, and we’re really going to need a strong telehealth program in the coming years.”

He suggested that an aging population will be one of “our great challenges as a nation”, and there is a need to be sure that “the quality of life goes along with the quantity.”

“We’ve got to learn to work together to solve our problems,” he said.  “Even in a divided government such as we have, we can still do some things that will make a positive difference.”

About Alan Turner

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