Phoenix_AZ_Downtown_SkylineHouston’s Texas Medical Center (TMC) complex commands attention. The cluster of glass-clad high rises housing the region’s top health care institutions, educators and innovators signifies a mutually beneficial collaboration between those organizations, where patients receive top-level care provided by highly trained employees.

And just in case you don’t quite get the message, TMC’s 56 member institutions and the TMC-unaffiliated Greater Houston Partnership (GHP) and even Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner will each reiterate that Houston is the place to live, work, play and retire. In fact, GHP – essentially the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Greater Phoenix Economic Council and Visit Phoenix – rolled into one powerful organization, uses a version of the word “great” eight times in its very brief description of Houston and its opportunities.

The (now-belabored) point is that Houston’s business, education, health care and political leaders do a great job of talking about themselves, promoting their strengths in a focused manner. While our recent benchmarking trip reaffirmed that we are doing many things right here, it is imperative that we further unify our voices to deliver consistently a positive, strengths-first message about the Greater Phoenix region. We revert too often to allowing the areas in which we have challenges to drive the conversation about us.

One action item resulting from our post-trip conversation is to take an honest, open inventory of our health care-related assets here, essentially benchmarking ourselves. Answering those questions for ourselves first enables us individually and as a group to lead with those strengths when talking to the public, other leaders and members of the media. We have to know where we are to effectively plot a course to where we want to go.

To be clear, our focus on positivity won’t be without acknowledgement that we, like every other city and state, have challenges. My good friend and GPCC Executive Board member Pam Conboy, Arizona regional president of Wells Fargo Bank, often says the best advocates are not only honest in identifying their challenges, but they create opportunities out of them.

One major challenge TMC leadership shared with our contingent is encouraging employees to be healthier. The rate of overweight TMC employees is 78 percent; the national average is about 70 percent. TMC approached this societal issue with a 2-pronged, positive solution. The organization developed the TMC O2 challenge, which offers employees not only an option for a diet plan, but it also implemented a simple, universally understood traffic light-inspired (red/yellow/green) system of labeling food choices in vending machines and cafeterias.

It’s a win on several fronts. First, healthier employees are happier, live better lives and reduce their employers’ health care and missed productivity costs. Second, battling obesity is a substantial challenge in Houston overall, and TMC has developed and deployed a system that helps all employees make healthier eating choices. Third, it shows that the organization is aware and honest about its employees’ challenges and chooses to act as partner in confronting them.

As business, political and community leaders, we are dedicated to exploring and utilizing all avenues to continually improve our economy, including the way we deliver health care.

We know ourselves best, so it is our responsibility to confront and understand our challenges, which simultaneously enables us to create multiple opportunities for success.

Posted by Josh Coddington