By Emery A. Wilson and Diana Moore
One major focus of Lexington Mayor Jim Gray's economic plan is health care, a driving force in the city's economy.
If Lexington is to prosper, it must recognize and promote its strengths, one of which is the health sector. A study commissioned by the American Medical Association — Economic Impact Study of Office-Based Physicians, prepared by The Lewin Group — supports this concept.
The study shows the nation's office-based physicians support 4 million jobs across the U.S. and $1.4 trillion in total economic benefit. Lexington-Fayette County has 1,488 office-based physicians, who support 8,688 jobs and generate state and local tax revenue of $82 million annually.
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To benefit from the city's thriving health care sector, Lexington must build the physical and organizational support for life-sciences entrepreneurs, develop and commercialize intellectual products, and educate and attract scientific talent.
This will be a magnet for young entrepreneurial companies. A nonprofit organization, Lexington Health, Economy And Life Sciences (HEALS) Institute, is helping Lexington do these things and more.
Lexington HEALS Institute was established in 2010 with Cardinal Hill Hospital, Central Baptist Hospital, Commerce Lexington, Lexington Medical Society, Saint Joseph Health System and UK HealthCare as its founding partners.
Fayette ranks as the sixth-healthiest among Kentucky's 120 counties, based on a 2007 Kentucky Institute of Medicine study. We have good oral health, a low motor vehicle death rate, a low rate of those not covered by health insurance and low rates of death from diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and breast cancer.
Lexington has little heavy industry or air pollution. Fayette County has a high physician-to-population ratio for both primary care and specialty care and an excellent supply of related health professionals.
The four main components of the Lexington HEALS Institute are to promote Lexington as a healthful place to live, a place to learn the life sciences, a place to obtain health services and a place that encourages and supports research and technology transfer in the life sciences.
Lexington HEALS Institute promotes the healthy living aspects of Lexington to new companies and their employees. The institute also supports various health activities and encourages health care providers to promote health and disease prevention.
With plenty of schools of higher education which offer programs in the life sciences, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, public health and allied health professions, Lexington is a prime location to learn the life sciences. Lexington HEALS Institute aims to be involved in several initiatives at the elementary, middle and high school levels to foster an early interest in the life sciences.
The institute aims to promote Lexington as a place to obtain health services.
Some of these efforts include providing lists of services and technologies available to patients, marketing Lexington's health care industry regionally and nationally and identifying and publicizing medical breakthroughs performed here.
Finally, the institute supports research and the transfer and dissemination of scientific knowledge among academia, the private sector and government in an open, collaborative and cross-disciplinary manner, which we hope drives high-tech entrepreneurship to the Lexington area.
It makes a lot of sense to invest in health care for Lexington's future. Clearly the benefits are better access to health care and a stronger economy. Let's continue to make Lexington a unified medical community of excellence.
Emery A. Wilson, M.D., is chair and Diana Moore is executive director of Lexington Health, Economy And Life Sciences (HEALS) Institute. For more information: www.LexingtonHEALS.org.