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“Can our health care system deliver health?” Patty Gabow stresses social determinants at Lown Conference

Former Denver Health CEO Patty Gabow, MD, MACP started her keynote address at the Lown Institute Conference with the unexpected question, “Can the American health system deliver health?”

“You may wonder, after hearing that I spent 40 years at a health care institution, why I would pose a question like this,” said Gabow. But it is precisely because of her decades of experience managing a safety-net institution that Gabow recognizes the limitations of the health care system.

Gabow pointed out that American health care excels at many things. At the same time, our health care system as a whole health is massively wasteful, ineffectual, and perpetuates health disparities. She stressed that even institutions like Denver Health that successfully care for a large, disadvantaged population, can’t solve all health problems. “I saw every day that our patients had problems that the health care system could not address,” said Gabow.

To give everyone the opportunity to live healthy lives, we need to address societal factors causing ill health, such as poverty, income inequality, education, violence, and the environment. “We don’t need more urgent care centers or freestanding emergency rooms,” said Gabow, “We need to invest in the social care system.”

Check out more on the keynote and an interview with Gabow at HealthLeaders Media.