The healthcare industry is routinely criticized from almost every direction. 

  • Nearly $3 trillion dollars is spent annually on healthcare in the US.
  • Productivity losses related to personal & family health problems cost US employers $1,685 per employee per year, or $225.8 billion annually.
  • Annually, Starbucks spends more on employee health benefits than on coffee.
  • Annually, GM spends more on employee health than on steel.

Most people can agree that our health system is overwhelmed. Within the next 10 years, if current trends continue, 1 in 2 American's will have undiagnosed prediabetes or diabetes.

Most people can agree that mental health issues still carry stigma and therefore, go untreated.

Most people can agree that those who can afford more healthcare, get more healthcare.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Despite what big-pharma may say, there is no magic pill that will "fix" our healthcare system.  Health is created not just in the clinical setting, health is created in the day to day way we live our lives.  According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the circumstances into which we are born and the places in which we live have more impact on our life expectancy than most any other thing.

Many of us have old recipe cards in our kitchens. Some cards were written by grandmothers who are no longer with us. Some are recipes for dishes that have been served as staples at church dinners since anyone can remember. On these cards are written family histories and cultural touchstones. These smells, tastes and memories are part of us. When we cook old family recipes, many of which are unhealthy, we are connecting to our very identities. Especially in the southern states, these are deeply embedded aspects of who we are... the good, the bad and the ugly. 

When it comes to health, a familiar refrain is to "pick ourselves up by the boot straps" and get healthy. That is a statement that must be unpacked in terms of home economics and cultural identity. But we normally don't think about health in this way. This is why, I think, the healthcare system is struggling.  Health is not just about one thing... it's about everything. 

Where do we start? First, we have to break down the barriers that are holding people back from better health.

  • Cheap fast food, liquor stores and lack of opportunity in urban neighborhoods,
  • Increasing burdens on the working poor who are being left behind economically,
  • Burdens on any person whose lived daily experience daily feels disconnected from educational and economic opportunities because of racism, sexism, or discrimination against the LGBT community.

If we are going to become healthier as a city, we must collaborate across sectors in an effort to root out all of these barriers. This is what IDEAS xLab is training artists to do. We are also training artists to work within the healthcare industry. This is an industry filled with caring people and resources who can and will be allies with communities in solving some of Louisville's most pressing health challenges.

Together with a broad coalition of the caring, IDEAS xLab is working to create a new breed of artists who can become effective community advocates in deconstructing the current conversation around health in order to create a new model that doesn't look at poor health as a personal failure.  As a city, we must break the cycle of personal shame related to poor health and recognize that we all have a stake in finding solutions, together.

Health equity is good for individuals.
Healthy individuals create a healthy family.
Healthy families create a healthy community.
Healthy communities create a healthy workforce.
A healthy workforce creates a thriving, diverse and resilient economy.

Want to learn more about IDEAS xLab's Healthy Days?  Click here.

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