Friday, January 8, 2016

"...America's City for Health..."

Consider this vision: The world's destination medical center residing in the world's healthiest city. It conceives an achievement well within the reach of this city, poised as we are for an even greater abundance of talent, resources, assets, and a habit of concerted effort. It anticipates a future few other cities could dare even to contemplate. It calls to all sectors of our economy and public life. It requires attention to all our communities and neighborhoods, for all will be required. This vision brings to the next two decades of development a shared horizon toward which all of us can journey, for it requires all of us to get there. - Dave Beal, "Vision for DMC must go beyond buildings and jobs," Post Bulletin, October 12, 2013

"...a compelling vision..."

Yep, I am quoting myself. At the time, I was commenting upon the DMCC board's recently issued "Statement of Public Purpose" which included as its first goal, ""Create a comprehensive strategic plan with a compelling vision that harnesses the energy and creativity of the entire community." At that September 16, 2013 DMCC board meeting, board member Bill George suggested that health and wellness might serve as the basis for this compelling vision. I wholeheartedly agreed then and still do.

About a year and a half later at its January 29, 2015 meeting the DMCC board adopted a mission statement that listed the goals from its earlier "Statement of Public Purpose" beneath this sentence:
With Mayo Clinic at its heart, the Destination Medical Center (DMC) initiative will be the catalyst to position Rochester, Minn. as the world’s premier destination center for health and wellness; attracting people, investment and jobs to America’s City for Health and supporting the economic growth and its biosciences sector.
As I recall the drafting committee for this new mission statement included three board members - including Bill George - and it reads like each of them got a clause. But, it does include an appellation of Rochester as "America's City for Health".

"...did I miss something...or what?"

About another year later, at the most recent December 17, 2015 meeting of the DMCC board, "America's City for Health" once again enters the conversation as something of an aside during a DMC EDA's report on providing the metrics, measurements, and ongoing reporting called for in the DMC plan (see p. 44). After the staff report, board member Hruska wondered whatever became of "America's City for Health" because they haven't really talked about it: "...did I miss something...or what?"*

Staff had two answers: (1) EDA has just finished it's RFP process for its marketing firm and they will be selecting a firm very soon; and, (2) EDA is talking to various groups throughout the state and the nation about city for health, etc. In other words, in emblematic EDA form "we're hiring a consultant and everyone's talking about us!" Staff concluded by saying they intended all along to get back to the board on the whole "America's City for Health" thing so no worries - how about March?

"...we have this unique opportunity..."

Fortunately, DMCC board members continue to be way ahead of staff and were much more substantive in sharing their expectations of how to proceed. In quick succession they identified three guideposts for what, why, and how to ensure that "America's City for Health" results in more than just a marketing differentiation strategy, DMC positioning statement, and a new sign at the city limits.

To wit:
1. Policies and project approval should include social and health impacts.
Chairperson Tina Smith: "...[W]e have this unique opportunity to tie it specifically and tangibly to what we are trying to build that that we have...a health and wellness based place rather than just a virtual idea of it."
2. Metrics should promote and sustain a healthy and inclusive community.
Board member Bill George: "...[T]his gives us the opportunity...looking at all the things we can do to help people in our community...make this a community that serves all its citizens and that would really make us a national model"
3. Community and social service providers should have an integral role in DMC implementation.
Vice-Chairperson R.T. Rybak: "We need to get a little clarity on what our role is in it. Does this body own the city for health or are we a participant in it?... I think frankly there needs to be another table in which we are active participants. Somehow we have to create that table...."

"...if anybody can do it you should be able to do it in Rochester..."

Mayor Rybak may be happy - and surprised - to learn that "other" community tables actually do exist; have existed in one form or another for a few years; and, that DMC Mayo staff and recently DMC EDA staff have occasionally dropped by to sit at these tables.

There's the table "hosted" by the Olmsted County Public Health Community Health Need Assessment/ Community Health Improvement Plan. There's the table hosted by the Community Networking Group (CNG) private, nonprofit and public human and social service providers, local philanthropies, and elected official. I might even include the more recent table set by In the City for Good.

Last year, during their public hearings prior to the approval of the DMC plan, the city and DMCC board both heard from those "tables".  For example, from May 1, 2015 this:
As the DMCC board and its Economic Development Agency implement the development plan to establish Rochester as a Destination Medical Center, we believe they should work with the community to create: 
1. Policies that bring potential health and social impacts into the decision-making process. 
2. Project approval criteria that evaluate the potential health and social impacts of a project before it is built. 
3. Metrics that gauge progress toward positive health and social outcomes that promote and sustain an inclusive and healthy community. 
We believe the concerns and recommendations we presented to the DMCC board at its recent public hearing were well-received. The agencies and organizations that provide community and social services need to play an integral role in the implementation of the DMC plan as well as the other planning initiatives now underway.
It is is encouraging to hear DMCC board members appearing to align with these long-standing and on-going community conversations. Likewise, it is promising that DMC EDA Director of Economic Development and Placemaking  Patrick Seeb brings to his position a familiarity with what building healthy urban environments and communities entails .

Finally, as I wrote over two years ago regarding the prospects for Rochester becoming "America's City for Health,": "We are not that city yet, but we could be."


* You can view the video of the DMCC 12.17.2014 meeting here. The discussion of "America's City for Health" occurs at approximately time marks 01.53 - 02.00.

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