Monday, May 10, 2010

Why Pretend An Advertising Executive and Chamber of Commerce Leader Are Public Health Experts?

Obesity as a public health problem has been the subject of considerable discussion.  So that luminaries from the prestigious Partners Healthcare system and Massachusetts Blue Cross Blue Shield would weigh in on the issue at a public meeting should surprise no one.  But see this report by the Boston Herald:
When asked about rising health-care costs, Jack Connors - chairman of the Partners chain, which includes Mass. General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals - said yesterday, 'Taking care of yourself starts at home.'

'What happened to individual responsibility?' Connors said at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Westin Boston Waterfront. 'Why is obesity such an epidemic (when) we all know that a big part of being healthy is exercising and eating the right food?'

Blue Cross Blue Shield Chairman Paul Guzzi echoed Connors’ attitude yesterday.

'What is the responsibility of the individual?' said Guzzi, who as the chamber’s chief executive hosted Senate President Therese Murray’s speech on health care yesterday, despite his dual role as Blue Cross chairman.

Jack Connors is currently chair of the board of Partners Healthcare.  A quick biography is here:
John M. Connors, Jr., 67, Chairman Emeritus of Hill Holliday (formerly Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Inc). (full service marketing and communications company) since 2006. Chairman of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Inc. from 1995 until 2006, during which time Mr. Connors also served as President and Chief Executive Officer until 2003. Mr. Connors was a founding partner of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos. Director of Covidien Ltd. Mr. Connors’ 40 years of business experience includes cofounding and developing one of the top advertising and marketing communications firms in the United States, advising many of the top branded companies in the world, and serving on the boards of dozens of entities, including public companies, private companies, hospitals and colleges. (Biographical Information as of 4/16/10)

Although Mr Connors did once run a medical education and communications company (see this post), he has no obvious direct experience or training in biology, epidemiology, public health, or medicine.

Similarly, here is biography of Paul Guzzi:
Paul Guzzi is president and chief executive officer of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, one of the region’s leading business associations.

Mr. Guzzi brings extensive experience in both business and government to his work at the Chamber. A former Massachusetts secretary of state and chief secretary to the Governor, as well as a member of the management teams of two Fortune 500 companies; he is a leading advocate for economic development and job creation.

Prior to leading the Chamber, Mr. Guzzi was vice president of state and community affairs for Boston College. Previously, he was a consultant for Heidrick & Struggles, an international recruitment and consulting firm. Mr. Guzzi also served as a vice president at Data General Corporation and as a senior vice president at Wang Laboratories. During his tenure at Wang, he worked closely with Dr. An Wang to oversee the restoration and transformation of what is now the Wang Theatre.

Mr. Guzzi began his public service career as a state representative from Newton in 1970. He was elected Massachusetts secretary of state in 1974. Mr. Guzzi served as a chief of staff for Governor Edward King and chief administrator of the Board of Regents of Public Higher Education.

A graduate of Harvard University, Mr. Guzzi holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in government. He completed the Harvard Business School Management Development Program. He was also an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Again, Mr Guzzi has no obvious training or experience in biology, epidemiology, public health, or medicine.

So maybe it should be no surprise that the Boston Herald article chronicled some skepticism about these worthies' public health pronouncements.
Calling the pair’s comments 'pure smoke blowing,' Boston University public health professor Alan Sager said, 'Sure individual responsibility matters, but the responsibility for efficient, affordable, high-quality health care for all Americans falls on everybody who works in health care.'

By the way,
Connors said a major reason for rising health-care costs is that a high percentage of people who leave the hospital are later readmitted, because they don’t follow their doctors’ directions. He owns a company, Dovetail Health, that makes money by helping elderly patients readjust to life after hospitalization, including staying on their medications.

Every week I get piles of notices of "healthcare" conferences at which most of the speakers are health care organizational executives with no obvious expertise or experience in actual health care, or in biology, epidemiology, public health or medicine. I think I dimly remember a time when most people who gave public remarks on health care actually knew something about health care, not just about making money (often personally in large amounts) from the health care "industry."

Note that while the Herald was able to find people who were skeptical about these health care leaders' remarks, there was no report that their audience (presumably made up mainly of business people) roared with laughter at their efforts to talk about controversial topics which they did not seem to really understand.

We need to ask why we have become so deferential to leaders of large (and and least heretofore prestigious) health care organizations that we treat them like true experts on biology, epidemiology, public health or medicine when they have no obvious expertise, or even knowledge in these areas?

Thanks to one of our anonymous scouts for a tip on this item.

1 comment:

DrRich said...


I have posted a somewhat critical (but well-meaning and heart-felt) reply to this post, here.