When we think of infrastructure, we often picture roads and bridges, electrical wires and pipes—the physical “backbone” of a community.
But there is another kind of infrastructure, one that consists not of concrete and wire, but hospitals, outpatient centers, and the many services they provide.
This ‘wellness infrastructure’, while less visible than a bridge or an electrical station, is no less important. The variety, quality and accessibility of local medical services impacts a community in myriad ways, from the personal to the far-reaching, shaping the long-term wellness of residents and visitors as well as the viability of the local economy.
The personal impact is easy to see. If you live within a good wellness infrastructure, meaning you have access to a variety of quality medical services near home, you and your family are statistically more likely to lead healthier lives. Preventative care in particular – such as routine check-ups with a primary care physician or cleanings at the dentist – protects you and your family from chronic illnesses, which can otherwise be painful, debilitating and expensive to treat.
The economic impact, while somewhat less obvious, is just as critical.
Simply put, healthier people tend to make better workers, both more productive and less likely to develop chronic conditions that put them out of work. Having access to preventative, routine and emergency medical care helps the local workforce stay healthy, which means that businesses can draw from a pool of healthier, more productive workers.
Healthier people also tend to contribute more to the local economy. If a person isn’t facing the expense and potential unemployment caused by chronic illness, they will likely have more money to spend at local businesses, money that will support jobs and fund public works within the community. (Obviously, the economic impact of chronic illnesses doesn’t compare to the personal suffering they cause. But, when looking through the lens of economic development, it’s important to consider how large-scale health trends impact economics. It reinforces the importance of quality healthcare for all.)
A community with a strong wellness infrastructure is likely to have a higher quality of life and a healthier, more productive workforce. And just as a quality physical infrastructure attracts new businesses and residents – you can learn how the energy infrastructure impacts the local economy in our recent MidAmerican feature – healthcare providers help create the conditions that people and companies need to thrive, attracting further investment in the community, creating good jobs, and generating a cycle of sustainable, continuous growth.
In other words, what’s healthy for you is what’s healthy for the community at large.
In Altoona, Iowa, the strength of our own wellness infrastructure is in large part due to UnityPoint Health.
For nearly 30 years, UnityPoint Health – Des Moines (part of the UnityPoint Health family, which provides care across Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin) has served the Central Iowa region. The group has four locations in Altoona – a family medicine clinic, an urgent care facility, a physical therapy center and a satellite location of Blank Children’s Pediatric Therapy – as well as five hospitals and numerous outpatient clinics across the greater Des Moines area.
By bringing a variety of quality healthcare services closer to home, UnityPoint Health makes it easier for Altoona’s residents to get healthy and stay healthy. Which, as we explained above, is good for not only residents, but new and prospective businesses that are looking for healthy, productive workers and communities with a high quality of life.
In addition to providing healthcare resources, UnityPoint Health has made a positive impact by creating jobs – the four Altoona-area clinics employ 25 providers, along with additional support staff – and getting active in local nonprofits and events. Today, the UnityPoint Clinic staff is involved in the Altoona Area Chamber of Commerce’s golf outing, the Nippy Hippie 5K Run/Walk, the Teacher Back to School Breakfast, and the Altoona Little League, to name a few.
“I think most people know about the services UnityPoint Health provides,” said Dean O’Connor, Mayor of Altoona.
“What people may not be aware of, is the economic impact this organization has on our community. In addition to employing dozens of workers, they help our local workforce stay healthy, which helps local businesses succeed and helps us attract new opportunities.
“Wellness is a big part of economic development—it impacts nearly all the factors that contribute to Altoona’s business climate. UnityPoint Health had been key to the well-being of both our residents and our economy, and they have a central role in the future we’re building.”
Thanks for reading this business feature! To learn more about the Altoona community, check out Altoona’s Olde Town revitalization project, explore how MidAmerican Energy is sparking local development, or meet a local business owner who prefers to work on a small canvas.