In a speech Friday afternoon at the City Club of Cleveland, MetroHealth CEO called on city leaders and residents to hold one another accountable in improving what he called a "health outcomes crisis" in Northeast Ohio.
He called on business leaders to pay their employees $15 per hour; invited churches and "any business with more than 100 employees" to start their own Open Table, which matches small groups of adult volunteers with young people in need; and plead with hospitals and the wider society to begin investing more in healthcare as opposed to medical
These interventions were required, he said, in a city like Cleveland, one with such catastrophic outcomes and such poor social determinants of health: among them black infant mortality, childhood poverty and the opioid crisis.
"We continue to think that excellent healthcare is defined by the size of our hospitals and the quality of the people who work within them," he said. "We hospitals keep confusing the public by focusing on high-technology medical care and equating it to better healthcare."
That's the wrong approach. What happens in hospitals is basically irrelevant, Boutros suggested, if the society in which the hospital operates is conspiring against the population.
"The stress of a tough life doesn't just make you anxious," he said. "It changes the biology of your brain and beats the hell out of your body."
This was Boutros' recurring theme: elevating the importance of preventative healthcare and stressing that a healthy society produces healthier people.
"If I have offended you, I am not sorry,” Boutros told the audience, (though the standing ovation seemed to indicate that no one took offense — and why would they?). “I hope I have offended you into action. I hope every person who listens to this goes out there and proves me wrong. If you or your organization are doing your part to end this health outcomes crisis, I beg you to yell it from the rooftops.”
During the audience Q&A, Boutros was asked what MetroHealth would do in the face of laws laying siege to women's reproductive rights.
Boutros said that reproductive healthcare is "clearly a personal decision" between a woman and her physician.
"Honestly it doesn't really matter to us what's happening in Washington D.C.," he said. "We're going to keep providing the healthcare that women need, irrespective of what happens. Unless they put me in jail, we're just going to continue providing services."
What's happening in Ohio is equally important. In April, the Ohio legislature became the sixth in the country to pass an ultra-restrictive abortion ban outlawing abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected. That law will take effect next month unless it is blocked by a Federal Judge.