Local First Arizona Founder Shows That the Future of Health is Local

This post guest written by LFA Economic Development Intern Adonis Trujillo Kimber

Today in America, 20% of all dollars spent go to health care. Those numbers are rising. Local First Arizona Founder and Executive Director, Kimber Lanning, participated in a roundtable webinar about how localism holds the keys to better health outcomes.  The discussion was hosted by BALLE, an organization focused on building local economies by connecting leaders, spreading solutions, and attracting investment.  This discussion brought  key experts together to discuss the future of health including Michelle Long the Executive Director of BALLE, Yanique Redwood the President & CEO of the Consumer Health Foundation and Tyler Norris the VP of the Total Health Partnerships for Kaiser Permanente.

Lanning discussed the importance of a healthy economy structured around local businesses. Comparing local businesses to national chain businesses shows the benefits of local.  Positive effects of local businesses include more workers with healthcare benefits, job creation, and more charitable contributions to local communities.  “When anchor institutions choose the cheapest bid from an out of state business, it is actually more expensive in the long run because of economic leakage,” says Lanning.

placemattershealthStudies across the country that are mapping health show the best outcomes in communities with healthy economies. Local First Arizona has recently partnered with the Arizona Partnership for Healthy Communities. The Partnership has stated that “your zip code is more important to your health than your genetic code,” recognizing the correlation between good health and strong local communities.  Lanning sees that there are unique opportunities for healthcare players to help foster successful local communities and encourage better health outcome. “Instead of using pharmaceuticals to treat patients with conditions caused by an un-healthy lifestyle, why not help create healthy lifestyles?” asks Lanning.

Yanique Redwood commented that due to changing environments in healthcare and new regulations, institutions are looking to update their strategies.  Says Redwood, “institutions are being encouraged to prevent patients from coming back for the same reasons.” Hospitals are now looking to treat the root cause of health issues instead just patients as they arrive.  Redwood encourages healthcare facilities to look at their own non-clinical assets to facilitate positive change for creating healthy communities. Items such as; raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, increasing retirement contribution, bring more employees in-house. These changes grow a healthier world for families.   Other recommendations are localized procurement decisions and impact investing.

Tyler Norris commented, “We are not investing in what creates health in the first place.  What we know is that the social determinants of health are the same as the social determinants of a strong, equitable, local economy."


Norris reiterated that the opportunity to help change the healthcare systems is now. Community organizations and channels should reach out to healthcare systems and encourage relationships between local businesses and procurement officers. Healthcare systems have the ability and opportunity to create more grants, utilize local farmers, provide loans for affordable housing, and reduce their carbon footprint. “We have been doing wonderful things in the past, but we have not been producing a population level increase in health,” said Norris.  Now incentives are aligned. Local communities and healthcare partners can, and should, work together to build healthier living communities. Healthcare systems have collected extensive data and now is the time to use this data to implement effective strategies.  As part of the discussion, BALLE has presented their field guide connecting social detreminants of health to the eight localism strategies formed by BALLE and MIT.

  • Love of Place – Celebrate cultural and natural diversity and support local businesses
  • Community Capital – Shift investment to align with the organizational mission. Create opportunities for individuals to invest back into their communities and advances equity in society
  • Shared Ownership – Ownership rooted in the community and held broadly
  • Soil and Nature – Holistic land management practices
  • Collaboration for Good – Building ecosystems of support for entrepreneurs to provide more of what their community needs closer to home
  • Participative Governance – Leveling the playing field for locally owned businesses, historically oppressed populations, nature and future generations with policy
  • Unlock Human Potential – Provide economic opportunity for communities of color, people with disabilities and those with barriers to employment
  • Cultivate Well-Being – Interdependence; shift from “me” to “we” and the realignment of business and the economy with what actually makes us well

A replay of the full webinar can also be viewed here.