The (healthiest) State of the County Address…

President Ken Yeager, far right, with Supervisor Wasserman, Congresswoman Eshoo and First 5 CEO Jolene Smith

President Ken Yeager, far right, with Supervisor Wasserman, Congresswoman Eshoo and First 5 CEO Jolene Smith

In my 9+ years of service to the VMC Foundation, I’ve never been more excited about a “State of the County” speech than I was today. Board President Ken Yeager succinctly outlined his goals for 2013, which he explained would require close collaboration from everyone present…and that’s a lot of county leaders – the Board Chambers was standing-room only.


Why was I so excited? First, because President Yeager has demonstrated for years that he truly cares about and works hard on these issues…so he’ll make it happen. Second, because the VMC Foundation is actively working on half of the goals he presented. Mathematically, that lines up: The Santa Clara County Health & Hospital System is roughly half the County’s budget, and half of President Yeager’s goals involve that “system” directly…and what do you know: the VMC Foundation is engaged in nearly all!

This, in a nutshell, suggests to me that the VMC Foundation has its priorities straight. In addition to raising funds for vital equipment and programs within the walls of the medical center, we’re addressing community health needs.

Here, then, are President Yeager’s health-related goals and a bit about how your VMC Foundation is lending a hand:

Prepare Santa Clara County for Health Care Reform

The VMC Foundation has, for years, been part of the committee to further improve the patient experience. From the moment someone walks in the door (or arrives by ambulance), we have countless opportunities to make them feel welcome and cared for. In part, this is how medical centers will be measured under the Affordable Care Act – and if we fall short, VMC loses money. Yes—this is a big deal. We also fund programs to keep patients from being re-admitted once they go home, another crucial measurement of the ACA.

Ensure every eligible child has medical and dental coverage

You likely know already that Santa Clara County was the first in the United States to offer health coverage for every single child. But that was 11 years ago, and since then county budget cuts have eroded this wonderful program. The VMC Foundation was part of the team (and the largest contributor) that campaigned and passed Measure A in November, which President Yeager confirmed generated enough funding to fully restore medical and dental services to each and every child in our county…what a huge victory!

Reduce the over-consumption of sugar-loaded beverages in our community

Again, you know this because I rarely shut up about it: The VMC Foundation is the fiscal sponsor of the county’s “Re-Think Your Drink” campaign and works to encourage kids and adults to drink more water, not soda.

Create a program to install hydration stations where kids and families gather

An extension of, and example of, “Re-thinking our Drink” in our communities – and an example of how good health originates not in a medical clinic, but where we live, work and play.

Expand HIV and STD testing programs

The VMC Foundation has raised tens of thousands to support the Positive PACE Clinic, part of the Health & Hospital System and the only county agency that provides testing, clinical and support services for residents living with HIV/AIDS. The PACE Clinic also conducts testing, and with the help of the VMC Foundation, led a huge World AIDS Day event last month to bring more awareness to the issues.

Perform developmental screenings of children during pediatric visits

This is a biggie for the VMC Foundation, as we run the Reach Out and Read Program at our Valley Health Center pediatric clinics—serving a quarter of all kids living in Santa Clara County. VMC’s pediatricians provide new books to young children, and as they present the books and the importance of reading to the parents, the doctors carefully assess how the child is reacting to the book. There’s a whole developmental screening model associated with Reach Out and Read, and yearly our team identifies lots of developmental delays that may otherwise have been missed. Great to see this as part of an expanding effort to catch developmental issues as early as possible.

To me, President Yeager’s goals had everything to do with public health in a very progressive sense of the term; not just preventing disease, but Better Health for All – which is the new motto of the Santa Clara County Health & Hospital System. I’d say “let’s get started”, but as you now know, we’re already off and running.

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