New systems of health


Sometimes when you’ve been walking a long time you forget how far you’ve come and far you can see from the crest. This happens more in the folded and forested Blue Ridge than in the wide open west. But even there above the tree line where it seems you can look right around the curve of the planet, you still have to remember to look up and notice the view.

That’s what I felt when I held the new book Stakeholder Health, Insights from New Systems of Health. It is collaborative learning at its best, edited by Teresa Cutts and Jim Cochrane, two synthetic thinkers who make everyone around them smarter. They were surrounded by 44 authors who were already pretty smart, but together the voice is brave and sure.


Dr. Teresa Cutts at the Rolling Release of the book at Chicago Theological Seminary.

In a time of fear and anxiety, Stakeholder Health writes with collective confidence that we—a very big we—are already well on the way to being new systems of health. We are certainly far enough along the way that we can see what we have to work with: a deep well of tested intellectual tools, street-smart tools for mapping community assets, clarity about the powerful integration of body, mind, spirit and social.

What is new about the new systems? Nearly everything. The new systems are marked by realizing they are systems, not just structures. And we are systems of systems interwoven in complex ways that are impossible to map neatly. But the chapter by Maris Ashe describes the tools we are finding useful in living into such complexity. The next chapter (not as smart, but not bad)(I led the writing team) describes the new ways of leading rapidly emerging in the upper reaches of hospitals today. The next, led by Dora Barilla and Eileen Barsi dives deep into the electronic connectional apparatus, which is how these sprawling systems find coherence and get work done at very large scale. Information technology (IT) is giving way to Relational Technology (RT), which changes everything.


Kirsten Peachey, of Advocate Health Care, outlining the chapter on Integrating Care to Improve Health Outcomes: Trauma, Resillience and Mental Health

The next three chapters are a sweet suite on intellect and testimony vibrating with hopeful, practicality. Nancy Combs of Henry Ford Health led the chapter looking through the lens of community navigators and the radicalizing affect they are having turning the new systems of health inside out. Teresa Cutts (“Dr. Honey” in our home) led a global quality team laying out the extraordinary depth of logic and practice allowing up to map community assets with as much rigor as we’ve long had to map needs. This chapter by itself will change the future of “community benefit” and its tame model of Community Health Needs Assessment. The chapter on integrating trauma, resilience and mental health, led by Kirsten Peachey, will likewise radicalize the thought and practice of “integrated health.” The three chapters together are positive bombshell with energy and intelligence released because of who is in a position to act on the new synthesis. It is profoundly good news, except for the old in-bred guilds trying to hold their power.

Kevin Barnett led the team building the case for a new financial accountability; indeed, a whole new financial logic that synthesizes all of the above so that we are a whole new business—health, and at large scale. This is taken to another radical edge by Doug Easterling and Alan Smart’s chapter on philanthropy. Between the two chapters, we can for the first time see the flow of money at the level of the whole system called health. We can begin to see how the old patterns of tame complicity can be cracked open to let the money flow through to the biggest opportunities.

Jim Cochrane led the writing for the chapter that puts all this American chatter into global context and thus accountable to world class intellect and practice. So much of what is old and creaky in our systems is peculiarly American; so much of the new now emerging is global. This sets up the chapter led by Jerry Winslow – a global citizen who happens to live in California—on mission and the heart of healthy community. Every bit of the book is a call to bold mission, not because of who started them, but because of who needs them—the world that God so loves. All the science, technique and technology fit the work of mercy and justice. Let it roll down.

Even the appendices have some bright lights where you wouldn’t expect them! The first appendix lays out the learning journey of Stakeholder Health, which began in a blizzard in Memphis, turned into the Health Systems Learning Group and found our way through an extraordinary array of learning experiences. I don’t think any of us realized how many steps we had take to the get to the the view (hence the mountain metaphor above). Appendix two is a rich collection of population health screening tools, sure to help many hospitals—and no small number of graduate students. The last appendix has numerous mission and vision statements new guiding hospitals and religious bodies in the field.

The book is in a “rolling release” in Chicago, Winston-Salem and next Tuesday in Oakland. Each bounce gives voice and visibility to the local authors and engages the networks most relevant to the local institutions. You can track it all, of course, on the website.

Most of the authors work for one or another of the new systems of health, so there is optimism but no happy talk. Most of the new systems are surprised to learn they are new because all of us spend the vast majority of our working days engaged in very old problems. Even when you are near the clearing at the summit with the great view, you have to watch where you put your feat rock by rock or you’ll hurt yourself. I happen to know that is true. The caution is not the whole story, however. It is significant that those of us inside the beast(s) can see the new emerging.

The book will be available for free download chapter by the chapter on July 1, which makes it a kind of textbook likely to be integrated into courses of many disciplines. And it is also available now to purchase on Amazon for $19.95. Just click here. Today.

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Rev. Francis Rivers, the Faith Health Division’s lead  organizing an Identity card drive for the Hispanic/Latino community. Part of what is very new in our New System of Health

The cover picture was taken on a chilly morning in Winton-Salem where one of the New Systems of Health—our own little Wake Forest Baptist Health—found ourselves in the position of having done something really smart and right. We had lent our name, presence, religious voice and political weight to a program offering validated picture ID cards to hundreds of undocumented Hispanics. They were part of the new system of how our city works and who mattered. They honored us by trusting us enough to show up. We were helping each other find our way into the future we were already partly living in.

That’s why that gorgeous picture is on the cover: we are far enough along that we can learn from the journey, pause and testify that we’re on the right path.

About garygunderson

Vice President, FaithHealth, Atrium Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders, Religion and the Heath of the Public, Speak Life and God and the People. Secretary Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group). Founder, Leading Causes of Life Initiative
This entry was posted in 100 million lives, religious health assets, stakeholder health, Uncategorized, Wake Forest Baptist Health and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to New systems of health

  1. Ron Gunderson says:

    What a wonderful collaboration! The reference in itself speaks to the value of shared resourcing!!

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