If we could walk in their shoes: Why improving the drivers of health is essential

Mike and Don volunteering at food bank event.

Note: This blog post is a companion piece to Care Ring’s “Seeking the Heart” podcast series in which we talk with leaders from across the region about their ideas and insights on how we can create a better health care system for ALL. To listen to “Seeking the Heart,” simply click here, or search for “Seeking the Heart” on your favorite podcast platform.

Years ago Mike Restaino and his wife Diane lost a son to a rare pediatric cancer. As he went through this unthinkable tragedy, Mike noticed how the community came together to support his family during their darkest moments.

Through this experience he was reminded how all of our neighbors deserve a community that lifts people up when they are in need.

Today Mike Restaino leads community relations and outreach for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina in the Greater Charlotte region.

In many ways Blue Cross of North Carolina is much more than just a health insurance company. Thanks to the work and vision of community leaders like Mike Restaino, Blue Cross of North Carolina is playing a critical role in improving the overall quality of life in North Carolina, not rooted solely in investments in traditional health care clinical environments.

They recognize the larger “drivers of health” that have a powerful impact on the life trajectory of individuals with limited resources. From housing to education, transportation to food access, these essential life needs are where Blue Cross of North Carolina increasingly focuses much of its energy, resources, and community leadership.

We are grateful to have Mike serve as a member of Care Ring’s board, where he helps us think about ways to scale our efforts to reach more people. In this podcast episode, Mike shares a few examples of the many ways he joins with partners across the region to improve the drivers of health, including:

- Working with the ONE Charlotte Health Alliance (a unique cooperative effort by Atrium Health, Novant Health and Mecklenburg County) to provide a host of health and wellness services through mobile units in some of Charlotte’s highest poverty zip codes

- Partnering with Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte and corporate partners like Lowe’s to repair and build affordable homes for families, and

- Joining with Johnson C. Smith University in establishing a “Sustainability Village” that integrates academic and research activities with experiential education opportunities for students.

Mike brings many of the lessons he learned during his family’s crisis to his leadership role with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. He believes that if more of us could walk in the shoes of many of our neighbors – many who are facing huge barriers to health and wellness – then we would begin to see more collaboration and a greater willingness to provide opportunities for all of our neighbors to thrive.

Author: Donald K. Jonas, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Care Ring

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