Gundersen Health System's chief executive officer is one of 11 people considered "Champions of Change" in health environmental sustainability.
Doctor Jeff Thompson was honored at the White House Champions of Change program on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
He was a part of a six-person panel to discuss health impacts and climate change. Dr. Thompson said Gundersen has been talking about that topic for the last ten years.
"Our conversation ends up being, 'We know what we'd like to do. We have to decide how we're going to get there,'" Dr. Thompson said. "We've decided hope is a pretty bad strategy. It's a great emotion, but a bad strategy."
Dr. Thompson said Gundersen and its board of directors decided to become energy independent by 2014.
"We have to take care of our patients not just within our walls, but in the community, in the broad community," Dr. Thompson said. "How can we take care of the health of the population? How can we take care of the health of the local economy?"
Dr. Thompson said healthcare providers can help improve the health and the economy of their region by being more thoughtful and thinking about the young people in the community. Dr. Thompson referenced a study out of La Crosse that found about a third of college-age kids in the community have sustainability in their value set.
"Not a hobby. A value set. And that's what it is at Gundersen. It' a part of our strategic plan," Dr. Thompson said. "We believe we can inspire change in our staff and in our communities and so far it’s working."
The head of the panel asked participants how healthcare providers can best communicate health risks and try to alleviate them.
Dr. Thompson said there are two things: 1) Make it very personable; and 2) Highlight the successes and highlight the value of partnerships.
He held up a picture of his first grandkid and said healthcare providers have to make it personable and think about the future in order for kids and their grandkids to grow up in a healthy environment.
"In order to have a healthy environment, we have to behave differently."
To learn more about the Champions for Change program, visit: www.whitehouse.gov/champions.