Jamie Harvie, PE

Healthcare begins in the local community

Jamie Harvie shares his thoughts on where our current health system is at, and how local communities play an important role. 

The Interview

I grew up near the woods, right adjacent to the woods, as a kid and I spent a lot of time there. And maybe it’s there that I kind of got this connection to all things in a way. But it was later in life, when I was an engineer, and I ended up working at this waste water plant, and came to this place where I was involved in this landmark pollution prevention initiative.

The idea was to develop strategies to eliminate entrance into the Great Lakes, because the Great Lakes were designated as a site for the zero discharge of these pollutants because they were so toxic.

When you start looking at the research, you realize that 80% of the mercury coming into the Great Lakes was from outside of our air shed. So very quickly, you start to realize to truly effect change in our Great Lakes, you have to speak to people outside of our water shed, from distant places. We know all science and social determinants — housing, employment, and so forth — those all influence our health. Those are all local.

We know that science shows that only about 10% of health outcomes are influenced by our access to healthcare. There are a lot of signals telling us that we have to begin in communities, and that health begins in the community. On one level it makes sense because that’s where we are as whole people and we’re surrounded by community members. I think in this country, we’ve lost our ability to engage with people and work on the skill sets necessary for health creation, which is really about relationship. So for me, that’s what’s guiding me and telling me that’s where we have to work.

 I think we’re at this exciting tipping point moving from these linear siloed ways of thinking that have developed all the institutions that we have built our society on for the last 200-300 years. We’re about to flip.

Maybe it’s going to take another 10-20 years, but we’re there, and I think people see it and that’s what I’m wanting to connect. And that’s why I think the integrated health community is essential to helping move this faster, because we don’t have a whole lot of time.

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