EVERETT — In 2014, officials at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett went looking for ways to boost the health of local residents.
They hoped to listen and learn from community members and offer a voice to the groups that had historically been left out of the conversation: women, immigrants and people of color.
With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, there was a new emphasis on the social and environmental factors that affect well-being.
At the heart of the new model was the notion that access to healthy food, reliable housing and personal safety play a much larger role in determining health than medical care alone.
In 2014, the medical center established the Providence Institute for a Healthier Community.
Scott Forslund, then communications director at Premera and founding director of Snohomish County Leadership Coalition, was tapped to lead it. After more than seven years at the helm, Forslund, 65, plans to step down. His last day is Sept. 5.
Retirement and his grandchildren beckon, Forslund said.
Jessica Burt, 56, the institute’s community health education manager since 2015, has been named its new director.
The institute aims to tap the wisdom of the community and place “radical trust” in the insight they offer, Forslund said.
“The voices we really need to hear from are those that haven’t had a seat at the table. It’s what we don’t know, and they know that has the ability to take us further. We’ve got to listen to these new voices.”
Providence Institute launched LiveWellLocal.org, a crowd-sourced, hyper-local list of 2,600 health resources, as well as the annual Snohomish County State of Well-Being survey and report.
The countywide survey tracks trends and offers a guide to community members and health care providers.
“One thing I’ll brag about all day is sitting at the knee of some brilliant people,” Forslund said. The list includes Janice Greene, president of NAACP Snohomish County, and Jessica Burt, he said.
“She’s an amazing person,” Forslund said of Burt. “In the 1990s, she co-developed the HIV response strategies for Snohomish County.”
Medical care is responsible for about 20% of a person’s health, Forslund said, and another 30% is based on lifestyle choices related to the cards you were dealt.
“Half to 70% depends on relationships, meaningful work and a stable place to live,” Forslund said.
Each year, survey findings are presented at the Edge of Amazing conference, a gathering of health care providers, community members and county officials, Burt said.
“We share what we know and connect to our communities,” Burt said. “We use that to direct our programming.”
This year’s conference takes place Oct. 5.
Burt plans to build on the institute’s mission and the annual health survey, along with other well-being initiatives. Burt will lead the effort to craft the institute’s next three-year strategy plan. Burt was a health educator and disease investigator with the Snohomish Health District for 23 years before she joined the institute’s staff of some half-dozen in 2015.
“Our community has everything it needs to thrive,” Burt said. “The question is: ‘How do we come together to harness that?’ That’s what the survey is really about. When Scott came on board, the question was: ‘How do you create healthier communities?’ That’s how the survey was born. ‘How does the community define health and well-being?’ The surveys are there to get that feedback.”
She looks forward to the challenge.
“I’m all about a team leadership style and listening to my community,” Burt said. “My team and I will be working together to create a sustainable path forward.”