University deans share health-care perspectives at Humphrey forum

Deans from the Humphrey Institute, Carlson School and School of Public Health participated in the forum.

As a health-care administration graduate student, Gina Ray works to combine the business and public health aspects of health care.

“When you do health-care administration you have the goal of helping the patients but there is also a business aspect and that’s what is important to me,” she said.

Ray joined a crowd of 125 people at the Cowles Auditorium in the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs to listen to three University deans share their visions for health care Wednesday.

Deans J. Brian Atwood of the Humphrey Institute, Mark Becker from the School of Public Health and Larry Benveniste from the Carlson School of Management discussed the health sector’s role in local and global development.

Citing growing concern for diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis, Atwood said the spread of international epidemics causes widespread concern amid all countries.

“It is time we sound the alarm bell,” he said, urging Western countries to be interested in what is occurring in developing countries.

At the same time, he said not all diseases are globally linked. While Americans deal with obesity and alcoholism, Atwood said people in developing countries fight preventable diseases.

For instance, he said about 30,000 children in these countries die every day from diseases such as respiratory ailments, diarrhea and tetanus.

He also pointed to the infant mortality rate in developing countries, where 100 out of every 1,000 children die. In contrast, Atwood said, six out of every 1,000 children in the United States die.

“We have not begun to address these issues yet,” he said.

Becker focused more on health care in Minnesota and the United States.

He pointed to increased obesity, which often leads to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.

“More and more people are living longer and gaining chronic diseases,” he said.

Becker said American health care is designed to treat patients with acute diseases such as the flu, but it lacks the capacity for prolonged cancer treatments and organ transports.

In order to overcome these challenges, the government and private and community sectors must collaborate, while individuals take responsibility for their lives, he said.

Benveniste took a more financially minded approach, noting that Americans pay more for health care per person than any other nation.

At the same time, he said there are still 43 million people in the United States without health insurance, a number he attributes to politics.

For Skip Valusek, a children’s hospital administrator who attended the event, the deans’ perspectives provided a valuable multidisciplinary approach to health care.

These three institutions give us broader perspectives on how to tackle the issues in the health-care system in the future, he said.

Valusek also said the forum would help him and his staff better deal with multicultural clients.