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Risa Lavizzo-Mourey: Building a Culture of Health

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President and CEO of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation challenges us to re-think our health system to create a culture of health.

Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Lavizzo-Mourey describes her “lightbulb moment.” She recalls when she was training as a physician at Harvard a patient she met named “Ruth,” who:

Lavizzo-Mourey…appeared at the admitting station on a cold winter night. She was homeless and helpless, had swollen feet. she had only a pair of house slippers on and leg ulcers that clearly made it difficult for her to walk… She’d been to the hospital many times before. And we did what we always did: we gave her a warm bed, some antibiotics, a hot meal. But the next morning, she had to go, because the rules said our job was done. So the next morning she limped out of the hospital and back into that dark tunnel of problems that she faced every day. No home, no job, lousy food, and no family or friends to turn to for help.

Our care ended at the front door of the hospital. And that was so very short sighted. What if, instead of ushering her back into the cold, we’d asked, “What did she need to keep from coming back into the hospital?” And what if we had actually connected her with the people, the services that could help her with that.

Asks Lavizzo-Mourey, “Why can’t setting people up for the care they need outside the medical center be a fundamental goal of every single encounter?”

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