Dr. Garth Graham preached the importance of social determinants of health at three separate panels in June to influential and international audiences. It’s a message that the Aetna Foundation president said was deeply personal.
“People will often say, don’t take your work personally,” Dr. Graham said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado on June 23. “To me, it’s all personal. Health care and the social determinants of health affecting our communities are personal.”
Dr. Graham said he’s been passionate about health care equity since he was a teenager. As a doctor and leader of the Aetna Foundation, he sees the value and importance of empowerment, every day, especially regarding health care issues.
To audiences in Aspen, at Johns Hopkins University and at Cannes Lion Health in France, Dr. Graham emphasized the idea that we can keep people healthier by giving them healthier resources and improved access their communities.
All social determinants of health can have an impact, he said. But empowerment — empowering individuals, families and communities — is a game changer, he said.
“We’ve seen the work firsthand,” Dr. Graham said.
Through the Foundation’s Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge, a partnership with the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties, 50 small to midsize cities and counties have made marked improvements on social determinants of health.
“We’re seeing a wide variety of projects, tackling issues as far-ranging as education, second-hand smoke and healthy behaviors,” Dr. Graham said. “What they have in common is that they are tackling community-specific issues with community-specific strengths, and it’s making all the difference.”
Read Dr. Graham’s recent bylined article in US News where his comments at Cannes Lion Health are highlighted.