Hats off to the Mississippi Economic Council and Governor Bryant for recognizing health care as a major economic driver for the state. (Leave aside for now the curious and seemingly universal opposition of state political leaders to expanding Medicaid at the federal government’s expense.) The recently released document, Blueprint Mississippi Health Care: An Economic Driver, is on target in laying out some key facts of the matter:
- The health care and social service sector has grown by 24% in Mississippi from 2002-2011, similar to growth nationally.
- 10 of the 20 fastest growing businesses today are health care related.
- Health care is expected to generate over 3 million new jobs naationally by 2018.
- Mississippi hospitals alone provide nearly 6% of the total full-time employment inthe state and spin out over tens of thousands of additional jobs outside their walls, with a total economic impact of nearly $6 billion.
Under the guiding metaphor of a “statewide healthcare cluster,” the plan spells out a bevy of strategic initiatives to meet the goals of workforce development, improved quality of life, business sustainability, and creation of wealth. Initiatives range from empowering leadership and identifying sustainable funding mechanisms, to promoting wellness in general and entrepreneurship in particular.
That’s all to the good. But for all its promise, the plan faces a plethora of significant challenges and constraints – not the least of which is aptly stated in the document’s executive summary forward: “To grow health care in Mississippi will require investment in human and physical infrastructure….” Collaboration will be indispensable to success. On the academic side, a good start might be greater collaboration among all the universities educating students and conducting research in the health care arena.
As two Health Summits sponsored by the College of Health indicate, Southern Miss is ready to take a leadership role in fostering such collaboration. Let’s keep a good thought, and expect to be included as Blueprint Mississippi Health Care moves forward.