Metro-East News

If you didn’t finish high school, you’ll probably have a shorter life

St. Clair County health summit keynote speaker discusses community health

Around 250 people attended the annual St. Clair County IL health summit held at the Four Points Sheraton Conference Center in Fairview Heights, IL, located in southern Illinois near St. Louis, MO. The keynote speaker was Tyler Norris.
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Around 250 people attended the annual St. Clair County IL health summit held at the Four Points Sheraton Conference Center in Fairview Heights, IL, located in southern Illinois near St. Louis, MO. The keynote speaker was Tyler Norris.

If you don’t graduate high school, you will likely live a decade less than someone who graduates from college, according to Steven Lipstein, president and CEO of BJC HealthCare.

“There’s a correlation between your education and your income. There’s a correlation between your income and your health status,” he said.

Lipstein was part of a five-member panel discussion during the eighth annual St. Clair County health summit Thursday in Fairview Heights. Other panel members included representatives from St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s Office, Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville, Saint Louis University and the Hospital Sisters Health System, the parent company of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville.

“We have to come up with new and different ways to think about what we do if we are going to affect outcomes,” Lipstein said. “You can’t keep doing the same things over and over again and expect a different outcome.”

Daniel Lewis, who works with State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly, spoke on the importance of violence prevention. Last year, Lewis said there were 24 homicides in East St. Louis, an increase from 19 in 2015. East St. Louis has a population of 26,000.

“That problem in East St. Louis is a serious one; it’s a severe one,” he said. “It does bleed out into the rest of St. Clair County to some extent.”

Lewis said the police departments in East St. Louis and Washington Park aren’t adequately staffed enough to handle the number of calls they receive, which included more than 500 shots fired calls in 2015. “Gun crime is a problem; it does take lives,” he said.

Living in a community riddled with violent crime can traumatize children.

“Kids needs to be able to feel safe,” he said.

That problem (violent crime) in East St. Louis is a serious one; it’s a severe one. It does bleed out into the rest of St. Clair County to some extent.

Daniel Lewis, who works with St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly

Dr. Desarie Holmes, director of the Behavioral Health Center at Touchette, listed the top 10 opioid medications, which include Oxycontin, Vicodin and Ambien.

Opioid medications, she said, open the door to “the epidemic of heroin abuse.”

Holmes said there’s a shortage of detox treatment beds in the region, which causes a burden on area emergency rooms.

She also stressed the importance of working with neighboring communities. “Let’s face it: Drugs travel because they have feet,” she said.

Dr. Pamela Xaverius, professor of epidemiology at Saint Louis University, discussed statistics related to maternal and child health.

“Infant mortality rates and social disparities are outrageous in St. Louis — unacceptable,” Xaverius said.

Out of 1,000 infants born in St. Louis, 7.5 babies die, according to Xaverius. The statistic is 4 in 1,000 for white babies, and a startling 12 in 1,000 for black babies, she said.

“If the smallest and most vulnerable among us are dying, can we truly say we have a healthy community?” she asked. “I think we can’t.”

Xaverius, who is a first-generation college graduate, would like more discussion surrounding “privilege. I’m treated differently simply by the color of my skin,” said Xaverius, who is white.

“If we can’t address that, we are not going to move forward,” she said.

Infant mortality rates and social disparities are outrageous in St. Louis — unacceptable.

Dr. Pamela Xaverius, professor of epidemiology at St. Louis University

Dr. Andrew Bland, chief quality officer for HSHS, said the public health system, which was designed in the 1950s for acute care, doesn’t work any more.

Bland put it bluntly: “Being a doctor kind of sucks. We have forgotten about taking care of patients,” he said. “We’ve got to redesign our care system.”

He said the health care system needs to move away from “physician-centered medicine. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Bland said, which garnered a round of applause from summit attendees. “Until you connect with people on a one-to-one level, they don’t care.”

Currently, he said, doctors treat everyone with the same condition, the same way. “We need to get back to what we knew in third grade; it’s about connection,” Bland said.

Jamie Forsythe: 618-239-2562, @BND_JForsythe

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Source: Dr. Andrew Bland, chief quality officer for Hospital Sisters Health System

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