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Director's Message


March 21, 2008


To: All DHS employees

From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., director


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"The sad truth is that excellence makes people nervous."
~Shana Alexander


I've talked in previous messages about the need to transform ourselves into the best human services delivery organization in the nation, if not the world. That's more than just a desire to set the bar high. It is, in fact, a very real goal. And that goal exists because I believe we have an imperative to be nothing less than the best at ensuring the health and safety of Oregon's citizens. Oregonians deserve and should settle for no less. And, of course, we cannot do this alone; everyone in Oregon also has roles and responsibilities in this.

So, what would our state look like if we provided the most effective and efficient services to our citizens? If everyone in our state was able to lead independent, healthy and safe lives? This week I participated in a presentation on health care that helped answer that question by benchmarking us against the U.S. average as well as top-performing states throughout the nation.

The reason for doing so was to clearly establish and show what is possible. OK, I confess, becoming the world's best may be a rather bold and audacious goal. But certainly achieving what another state (the best in the nation) has already accomplished is not only possible, but it should become our first objective and milestone in becoming "world class."

So how are we doing and what is possible? Here is just a small sample.

As I mentioned last week, we envision and are working toward an Oregon where everyone can get the health care they need. But for starters, if we had the same percentage of individuals without health insurance as the state with the lowest percent, there would be 46,000 more Oregon children and 247,000 more Oregon adults who would be covered by health insurance and therefore more likely to receive health care when needed. Just so you know, Oregon, at 17 percent, ranks 37th in the nation in the percent of citizens who are uninsured. The national average is 16 percent and the best state in the nation is at 9 percent.

By the age of 3, just 74 percent of Oregon children have received early childhood immunizations (we are in the bottom 10 percent of states). If we did as well as the best state in the nation in protecting our children's health, 89 percent of our youngest children would be immunized. We would be immunizing more than 13,000 additional children a year, and as years rolled forward we would be protecting many, many thousands more children against childhood diseases.

Nearly 37 percent of adults in Oregon report poor mental health. That compares with just 24.5 percent in our nation's best state and a U.S. average of 34 percent. Our efforts to strengthen the state's mental health treatment infrastructure are very much needed.

Seventeen percent of Oregon children live in poverty. The state with the lowest child poverty rate is at 10 percent.

If we were as good as the best state in the nation in getting the right care to our seniors at the right time and in the right place, every year we could prevent more than 2,600 people over age 65 from ending up in the hospital and we would save more than $14 million a year in medical expenses.

Fourteen percent of Oregon's children 10-17 years old are overweight. Though we are just under the national average of 15 percent, in the best state in the country the rate is just 8 percent.

Finally, if we were the best in the nation at ensuring that everyone in Oregon had a health or medical home, 375,000 more adults and 150,000 more children would have a place where they had a regular source of health care and where that care could be coordinated and accessible when needed.

There are 3.6 million people in Oregon. When we talk about percentages, it's important to remember that 1 percent of our population equals 36,000 individuals. The numbers and percentages I've listed above reflect real peoples' lives, real health problems. These numbers represent our neighbors who lack access to preventive care, regular medical checkups, good nutrition and access to the services they need to protect their physical and mental health.

We need to find ways to improve the health and safety of all Oregonians. That's why we're working to transform DHS into a world-class organization and Oregon into being the best in the nation. We owe it to everyone in Oregon to be the best at what we do.


To provide feedback email: DHS.Directorsoffice@state.or.us


This message is intended for all department employees. Please read it electronically, if possible. Managers and supervisors are asked to share the message each week with employees who do not have email access.