More than 30% of the children in St. Louis had lead poisoning in 2000*. You read that right. I learned this alarming statistic from Robert Fruend, CEO of the St. Louis Regional Health Commission (RHC), during The Atlantic's "Conversation on Community Health" (underwritten by GlaxoSmithKline). It was offered as a model for action.
Fruend explained how the RHC, the City of St. Louis, Saint Louis County, the State of Missouri, RHC Advisory Board members, community organizations, and hundreds of community members began collaborating to tackle this enormous lead poisoning challenge. Through their collaboration, the St. Louis community can now report that fewer than 3% of their children have lead poisoning--a dramatic drop achieved in just a decade. Bravo St. Louis!
As St. Louis health leaders gathered last Wednesday for the second in this series of community forums with The Atlantic, they discussed the health issues currently crippling their community, from asthma to obesity. Although some of the current health statistics are frightening, I couldn't help but feel optimistic. The audience used iPads to share ideas and provide feedback, making the meeting highly interactive. It was amazing to see the ideas streaming from the collective brainpower in the room. I am confident that if the St. Louis community can come together as they did ten years ago when they tackled lead poisoning, then they can address any health challenge. GSK, which employs more than a hundred people in the St. Louis region, primarily through our TUMS manufacturing facility, is engaging in these conversations in several communities across the US--and looking for insights and best practices that could improve the health of our nation.
This concept of allowing the data to guide community health strategies and encouraging various agencies to collaborate throughout the process is not a new idea; it is a winning strategy that was reaffirmed again and again last week during my travels. In addition to the program in St. Louis, last week, I also joined the Executive Directors of the five GSK 2012 US IMPACT award-winning nonprofits for an awards ceremony and panel discussion at GSK's US headquarters in Research Triangle Park, NC. Throughout the dialogue, the directors shared data about the tremendous community health challenges we face and emphasized how critical partnerships are for addressing these challenges. I was proud that we were able to convene--and recognize--these exceptional nonprofits that have found innovative ways to improve access to healthcare in our communities.
At GSK, evidence-based and collaborative organizations are natural partners in our shared mission. Please take a moment to read about all our US-based nonprofit partners here. And I look forward to sharing with you specific examples of community health outcomes achieved through GSK evidence-based partnerships in 2013!
*Note - You can review the data of the St. Louis lead poisoning problem among children through the St. Louis Regional Health Commission's new report, "Decade Review of Health Status" released earlier this month (December 2012; page 38).