Aspen Institute Unveils New Coalition on Health Reform

March 12, 2009

The Aspen Health Stewardship Project unveiled a diverse and growing coalition on Thursday of 16 organizations calling for the adoption of a roadmap to help ensure smart, sustainable improvements to the U.S. health care system.

The coalition, which includes patient groups, employers, nonprofit advocates and provider organizations, will encourage policymakers, physicians, health care businesses, communities and other stakeholders to embrace the roadmap, a set of 10 core principles developed by the project’s bipartisan advisory board.

In unison with the coalition unveiling, the project also announced the upcoming publication of a white paper, titled “Health Stewardship: The Responsible Path to a Healthier Nation,” that expounds upon the principles and calls for “all Americans to value and manage our nation’s shared health resources in the same sense that we seek to be good stewards of the environment.” Upon its release, the paper will be available for download at no charge on the project Web site,

“Transforming health care in the United States is an urgent national priority, which President Barack Obama has fully recognized,” said Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey and one of the project co-chairs. “To fix our nation’s broken system of health care, we urge a focus not just on its symptoms but on its root causes as well.”

The following organizations make up the Aspen Health Stewardship Coalition:

    Advocacy Alliance – Susan G. Komen for the Cure
    American Heart Association
    American Lung Association
    American Public Health Association
    American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
    Disruptive Women in Healthcare (Amplify Public Affairs)
    GE Healthcare
    Eli Lilly and Company
    National Association of Community Health Centers
    National Medical Association
    Partnership for Prevention
    Regence BlueCross BlueShield
    Susan G. Komen for the Cure
    WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease

The stewardship principles include: “Access is not enough,” which notes that access alone will not drive the improvements needed to increase safety, reduce waste and promote quality; “Value and quality in care paramount,” which speaks to the importance of efficiency and innovations that bring about better health for the money spent; “Health span, not life span,” which shifts the focus from life expectancy to how long people live with the best possible health; and “Health in all policies,” which calls for the analysis of all government policies to determine their “health footprint.”

Project Co-chair Mark Ganz, president and CEO of Regence BlueCross BlueShield, one of the coalition members, observed that the nation is gathering the will and resources to implement major health reform. Specifically, he noted that provisions such as $19 billion in the economic stimulus bill to help the nation transition to electronic medical records and a proposed $634 billion federal budget for health reform over the next 10 years are vital steps toward making reform a reality.

“This is a critical time for collaboration and bipartisanship,” Ganz said. “With health care costs rising, our economy faltering and the health status of the American people declining, it has never been more important to establish a clear roadmap for improving the U.S. health care system.”

The stewardship principles were formulated for the very purpose of furnishing such a roadmap, according to Dr. Michelle McMurry, project director.

Recognizing the need for bipartisan principles ? and seeking to help build a healthier nation ? the Aspen Institute established the project in the fall of 2007. Consistent with the institute’s history and ideals, the project convened a bipartisan group of thought leaders and asked them to develop a set of core principles that, transcending political biases, could help guide any health reform proposal.

Building on the groundwork completed in the project’s first year, the coalition encourages the adoption of the principles in the policymaking process. Additionally, the coalition itself serves as an example of the consensus building urged by President Obama, Dr. McMurry said.

“Of course, opinions differ substantially on various aspects of health reform, but we must use our areas of agreement as a starting point,” Dr. McMurry said. “Only by bridging ideological divisions can our nation finally solve the health care dilemma.”

To see the full list of principles, please visit

The Aspen Institute, founded in 1950, is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue. Through seminars, policy programs, conferences and leadership development initiatives, the Institute and its international partners seek to promote nonpartisan inquiry and an appreciation for timeless values. The Institute is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has campuses in Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Its international network includes partner Aspen Institutes in Berlin, Rome, Lyon, Tokyo, New Delhi, and Bucharest, and leadership programs in Africa, Central America and India.

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