Guest Column: Let’s Swim in Circles for the New Year

While looking out of the window of my office in Las Colinas during the cold weather the past two weeks, I noticed ducks swimming in very tight circles on the pond adjacent to our office building.

Somewhat intrigued by this odd behavior, I went online for research about this activity. The explanations vary, but the overall consensus by bird experts was that ducks have plenty of food in the warm weather such as insects, fish and algae on the surface of the pond. However, in cold weather certain species such as the Northern Shovelers and Mallards swim in tight circles and the paddling agitates the water (rotation) forcing algae and plants to the surface for feeding.

I did notice that most of the ducks kept their heads underwater during the swimming presumably eating food from the churning.  We may think some ducks are daffy, but clearly this is an excellent example of cooperation and collaboration to benefit the entire family of ducks.

As we begin 2017, let’s look at some federal, state and local initiatives that can benefit the health of Texans. We need to be opened minded, proactive and collaborative on changes or modifications to the Affordable Care Act. Coverage, access and focus on prevention and wellness should be bipartisan priorities so we can improve the health of our state.

We also need to work cooperatively on any federal changes to Medicaid funding so we meet the needs of the patient in a cost effective fashion. As we begin our state legislative session, the permanent Medicaid 1115 waiver, state Medicaid funding, trauma funding and the expansion of telehealth are priorities that if adopted in a bipartisan manner, will benefit millions of Texans.

As we continue to focus on the social determinants of health, we realize that health, education and income are completely interrelated. For example, a child hungry or whose teeth hurt at school will not learn or obtain the education needed for success. In Dallas county alone, 38 percent of the children live in poverty which obviously impacts their health, education and overall welfare.

In our local communities, we can make a difference. Check with your Mayor and City Council members and ask if there is a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance in your city. If not, ask why? Over 43,000 Americans die from second hand smoke every year and some are employees working in restaurants that still allow smoking. There are many prominent North Texas cities that still have not enacted smoke-free ordinances so 2017 would be a great time to pass those regulations.

2017 will be a challenging year for healthcare whether you are a patient, provider, legislator or supplier. However, if we put the patient first and focus on the best outcomes for each individual, then we will certainly succeed. We are all invested in Texas health care, so we must swim in circles during 2017 to benefit all stakeholders, especially our patients.

W. Stephen Love is President & CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council and a member of the Convening Panel for the State of Reform Health Policy Conference in Austin in February 8.