Community partnerships crucial to combat obesity, Shannon lecturer says

Daphne Bascom (right), M.D., Ph.D., talked after her lecture with an audience member. The sponsors of the lecture, Henry and Dr. Reaner Shannon, listened in.

The 2017 Dr. Reaner and Mr. Henry Shannon Lecture in Minority Health, given by Daphne Bascom, M.D., was filled with compelling statistics and fresh insights into the importance of community health efforts. It also reinforced an old saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Bascom, the senior vice president of community integrated health for the Greater Kansas City YMCA, focused her lecture, “Collaborating Across the Continuum to Create a Healthy Community,” on efforts to combat obesity.

“The connection between rising rates of obesity and rising medical spending is undeniable,” said Bascom, who spoke Feb. 24 at the School of Medicine.

But she also noted that investing just $10 per person in community efforts to reduce obesity could pay off in an estimated $16 billion in annual health care savings.

Some other bracing numbers:

— Annual obesity-related health care costs are estimated at $315.8 billion, with $14.1 billion related to childhood obesity.

— Businesses lose $4.3 billion a year to obesity-related absenteeism.

— Average health care costs are 42 percent higher for obese people.

— More than one in three U.S. adults are obese, and obesity rates are worse for black and Latino adults.

— Kansas had the 7th worst rate of adult obesity, and Missouri was tied for 10th.

Bascom, a board-certified specialist in otolaryngology and head and neck surgery, also related her own career experience with the need to “build a better bridge” for integrating community institutions with the health care system.

Case in point: Bascom’s efforts beyond surgery involved helping patients with follow up communication and recommendations for better fitness and nutrition. “Sometimes it worked,” she said. “But then there were the patients who couldn’t pay their electricity bills. … It was wearing and frustrating because there weren’t the community resources to help them.”

So Bascom, who received her medical degree at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, looked for broader ways to improve people’s health. She came to Cerner Corp. as chief medical officer, where she provided strategic consulting services on how to use health information technology to improve quality, safety, operations and the fiscal health of their organizations.

Now at the YMCA, Bascom is developing and promoting health partnerships and sustainable programs One area the Y is promoting? Reducing obesity—including working with families, improving access to affordable healthy food, providing safe places to be physically active, and curbing exposure to marketing of less nutritious foods.

Bascom, who herself struggled with her weight in grade school, said, “Obesity is a problem. It’s been a problem. It continues to be a problem. But it is something that can be solved.”