Haslam launches statewide health and wellness task force

Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 11:49am

Gov. Bill Haslam has launched a new statewide task force aimed at improving the health of Tennesseans and reducing the state’s health care costs by addressing the prevention and management of chronic diseases.

The aptly named Task Force on Health and Wellness, chaired by University of Tennessee Chief Medical Officer John W. Lacey III, will include stakeholders from across the state representing public and private health, business, education and other interests who say they will work collaboratively to define and share strategies that address chronic disease and other health challenges in the state.

Haslam, Lacey and former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist announced the formation of the group at a Thursday morning press conference.

“Health care is a huge cost to the state of Tennessee,” Haslam said. “Almost a third of all state dollars go to health care in one form or another … and anything we can do to control that cost is significant.”

Haslam also said improving Tennessee’s low ranking among states for health indicators could increase the state’s competitiveness for attracting companies and creating jobs.

“It’s a competitive world, and employers look and see what are all the cost factors that impact a business being here and if you look at a population that’s not as healthy as it could be, that works against us in recruiting jobs,” he said.

To start, the task force will focus on atrial fibrillation, or AFib — a heart condition that results in irregular heartbeat and is linked to an increased risk of stroke and the worsening of other cardiovascular conditions. According to statistics from AFStat, a Washington, D.C.-based organization for which Frist serves as health policy adviser, AFib affects more than 2.5 million Americans, and its prevalence is expected to double by 2040.

In Tennessee, total Medicare payments related to AFib were approximately $47.9 million in 2007, the most recent year for which data is available.

“It remains today a largely unrecognized cost driver, and that impact will just increase over time,” said Frist, who is serving as a policy adviser to Haslam’s task force. “So it’s one that we clearly need to address.”

Lacey is beginning to assemble the rest of the task force’s membership and starting the work of identifying recommendations related to AFib and other conditions, such as diabetes and obesity. But he said he’s not operating on a specific timeline.

“It is a daunting task — we don’t underestimate the challenge that lies ahead,” he said. “But the goals are worthy, and the work therefore must be done.”

11 Comments on this post:

By: gdiafante on 6/9/11 at 1:45

Yes, let's spend millions of dollars investigating how a nutritious diet and exercise can improve health and reduce health care costs...

I'm beginning to think that the only true qualification for public office is mental retardation.

By: pswindle on 6/9/11 at 4:04

Of all the issues that face TN, he is going after something that will not change regardless how money he blows on it. He has not addressed anything of importance except to protect himself and to destroy the teachers. Are we getting our money's worth?

By: gigibagoly@yahoo.com on 6/10/11 at 4:04

if the healt of the nation is to much of a chalange for that nations then the question is what anythink good that nation can do to be cosiderate a humane nation?, a soap consuming was considerate a high level of civilisation for a nation, the question is now how much soap we need to wash the dirty thinking in White (WHITE , CLEAN) House or in any of high thinking law institution.

By: gdiafante on 6/10/11 at 6:19


By: treehugger7 on 6/10/11 at 6:27

i hope this is a typo! WTF?

By: Moonglow1 on 6/10/11 at 10:21

Moonglow1: We need a health care system that pays for health care wellness programs and rewards primary care physicians financially. Currently the system rewards high cost specialists to treat cardiac and other chronic illness that could be reduced through prevention programs. Also the Republicans support drug company advertisements to push their drugs which often have severe side effects and increase the cost of care. Haslam is worried because his tea party agenda is not translating into increased job opportunities in TN.

By: pswindle on 6/10/11 at 11:26

I can't remember when TN elected a weaker governor. He just does not seem to get it. He goes alone with whatever Ramsey wants on the agenda. He was not going to push against teachers' unions, but Ramsey wanted to do.. Who is governor. I thought that Ramsey lost his bid for governor. Then we have the Tea Party; Beavers, Maggart, Johnson and Weaver to name a few that we need o fight against their radical agenda.

By: american1974 on 6/10/11 at 11:31

Wow. My question is why is 1/3 of all state dollars going to pay others health care?? That is insane. Who are the idiots who come up with this idea?
Oh, yea. That's how you get elected. You promise free stuff to everyone!!! Then you tax the hell out of people and complain they are not paying enough taxes to get you re-elected again to give out more free stuff!
Help the elderly, handicapped and that's it. It's not the state's responsibility to tax one person to pay for another's anything.

By: budlight on 6/10/11 at 1:24

Moonglow1: We need a health care system that pays for health care wellness programs and rewards primary care physicians financially.

Moonglow, will you join with me in applying to sit in on the TASK force? What is a TASK force? Anyway!

By: Xemo on 6/10/11 at 4:38

Oh boy! Bill Haslam gouged us on gas prices, and what happened to the cost of healthcare during Frist's stint in Washinton. We had better see if our insurance has good proctology coverage.

By: budlight on 6/11/11 at 6:20

Xemo, the gas prices are going down - for now, anyway!

Frist is a rich doctor!