Metro Health Department Director Dr. Bill Paul closed his presentation at the Y’s 1st annual Chronic Disease Prevention Summit with an unlikely photo: the neon lights of Lower Broadway, which helped cement Nashville’s status as a music destination. “We didn’t become Music City just because a bunch of musicians were here. We came together and decided it was going to be our identity,” Paul said. “We need to do the same thing around disease prevention.”
Working towards a new identity for Nashville—one defined by dedication to health and preventing chronic disease—was the goal of the May 2 summit organized by the Y, which this year brought together 100 medical, healthcare and community stakeholders to downtown Nashville’s Bridge Building to discuss diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and other health issues plaguing Middle Tennessee.
Though presenters at the summit shared some alarming chronic disease data (hypertension, for one, is higher than the national median in all 95 Tennessee counties), most of the talks shifted from statistics to solutions brought about when community organizations like the Y partner with healthcare providers to make healthy choices easier and programs more accessible.
A prescription for prevention: fighting chronic disease through partnerships
One such solution that’s beginning to emerge is the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, a year-long lifestyle intervention program that supports a small group of prediabetic adults in eating healthier, exercising more and striving to lose a mere 7% of their body weight. The program has proven to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by 58% overall and is already being offered by the Y at five Middle Tennessee locations.
The Y continues to work alongside healthcare providers and the medical community to expand the program’s reach and provide access to even more of those suffering from prediabetes. “The Y’s goal is to remove cost as a barrier to participants. We see an increase in participation when we do so,” said speaker Heather Hodge, Y-USA’s senior director of chronic disease prevention.
In addition to Hodge, Dr. Paul and other Nashville public health officials, the summit also welcomed Dr. Janet Wright, executive director of the Million Hearts® initiative, and Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, CMO of prevention for the American Heart Association. Sanchez emphasized the need for physicians to understand how a patient’s neighborhood and home environment may affect his ability to make healthy choices.
“A person’s zip code may matter more than his or her genetic code,” he said. He also acknowledged how community organizations like the Y help fill gaps in care and resources that cannot be met by doctors alone.
A powerhouse lineup of speakers closed the summit: Dr. Micah Cost, executive director of the Tennessee Pharmacists Association; Dr. Michael Edgeworth, medical director of Cigna-HealthSpring; Dr. Joseph Webb, CEO of Nashville General Hospital; Dr. Karen Kmetik, vice president of health outcomes at the American Medical Association; and James Huffman, senior vice president and head of employee benefits for Bank of America.