Challenge Day Reflections: Health & Wellness, LT'19

Health & Wellness Challenge Day
December 2018

To keep you connected to LT and current issues and topics discussed in the curriculum, LT will share highlights and resources from the recent Challenge Day. We hope you enjoy these monthly updates!

 At the Health & Wellness Challenge Day, held at NewHolly Gathering Hall, LT'19 examined the personal, social, and environmental factors that are "determinants of health," discussed how racism is a determinant of health, and wrestled with a current community issue.

You should be able to be low-income and still be healthy.
— Dr. Benjamin Danielson
People who don’t take risks ultimately fail a lot. Life isn’t meant to be static.
— Ron Sims
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For a list of objectives and speakers, refer to the agenda. If you would like additional resources, you may access the pre-work here.

Factors Influencing Health Status:
Social Determinants of Health

The biggest factors driving health status are lifestyle behaviors (smoking, obesity, nutrition, alcohol use, etc.). Lifestyle behaviors are influenced by the social determinants of health, such as income level, early childhood development, ethnicity, and much more. 

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How do these various determinants contribute to your overall health? Does your neighborhood have safe sidewalks to go for walks? Do you have access to fresh food? Do you have steady employment in a safe environment?

King County in general has excellent health outcomes, but if you pull back the data, you'll quickly see there are huge discrepancies within the county. For example, the average life expectancy in Mercer Island is 86 years, but 25 miles away in Auburn, the average life expectancy is 76 years. What contributes to this 10-year difference? The class spent the day focusing on what drives these inequities and discrepancies.


What Else Matters to Health? Place Matters. Race Matters.

When looking at maps and statistics, it's not difficult to see patterns indicating that place matters. Many of these patterns can be traced back to Seattle's historically racist policies, such as redlining and racial restricted covenants

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It's easy - and perhaps human-nature - to focus on the negatives. But the Curriculum Committee challenged the class to flip the narrative, to not only think about the deficits in communities but to also focus on their strengths and assets.

We must take action. By doing nothing, by being passive, we perpetuate inequities. 

Why Does Any of this Matter? Leadership Implications

 Dr. Benjamin Danielson, Senior Medical Director, Odessa Brown Children's Clinic and Central Region

Dr. Benjamin Danielson emphasized the importance of listening and learning before jumping to action. As an example, earlier in his career, he developed a framework to help kids with ACES (adverse childhood experiences) do better in school. Soon after implementing the program, he realized it wasn't working. He took a step back to observe what was happening. He realized that many of the kids didn't arrive to school on time so they weren't receiving free breakfast, and they were too hungry to focus on school. By taking a step back, he was able to adjust his plan and provide students with breakfast so they could focus on school.

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When talking about health outcomes and how they're often driven by race and income, Dr. Danielson poignantly said, "You should be able to be low-income and still be healthy." There is discrimination and oppression in healthcare, due to internal biases. 

What can we do? We must focus on what is impactful. We need to intentionally work with communities that are affected by policies and be sure they are involved in the decisions that will impact them. See Dr. Danielson's slides for ideas, particularly slides 45-50.

Leadership Lessons and Well-Being

Ron Sims, Former Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and former King County Executive

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The day ended with Ron Sims reminding the class that leaders are needed now more than ever, particularly LT leaders, who are collaborative system-thinkers driving positive change. He encouraged the class to be bold and take risks, saying, "People who don't take risks ultimately fail a lot. Life isn't meant to be static."

Special thanks to our Challenge Day Sponsor