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Building a Culture of Health — Interview with Nancy Barrand

Nancy Barrand Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
August 03, 2015
Well beyond the scope of traditional healthcare, there are a wealth of factors that help determine whether we will lead healthy lives.


A home free of toxic chemicals, a healthy diet, an early education program — at first glance, nothing ties these factors together. But a closer looks reveals how the environment in which children are raised can have tangible outcomes on their long-term health.

Healthcare initiatives — including research and development of new medications and cutting-edge clinical treatment of debilitating diseases — are critical components of our health regimen, says Nancy Barrand, a senior adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. But complimenting effective treatment are a host of other steps that can help prevent negative health outcomes in the first place, says Barrand, whose organization is dedicated to helping to develop a “culture of health.”

“Healthcare is about fixing and curing diseases. Health is about prevention and promotion,” says Barrand in a video interview during the recent GE Developing Health Summit, which brought together the GE Foundation’s partners in global health. “We need to balance the two and we need to pay attention to how health is shaped by the many other sectors that go far beyond healthcare.”

A very small percentage of the population counts for a very large portion of our healthcare costs, and many of these expenses are generated by a health issues that could be prevented by implementing measures that are at the periphery of the traditional healthcare system.

“What the research tells us is that they are a number of different trajectories to becoming a healthcare super utilizer,” according to Barrand. “It starts from the time of conception. It starts from whether or not there was good prenatal care. It starts from whether or not that child was ready to read when she or he went into kindergarten and to what happens to that child as she or he goes through adolescence,” she says in the interview:

(Top image: Courtesy of Thinkstock)