WXXI AM News

Founding Health Foundation CEO is stepping down

Feb 5, 2018

Credit Greater Rochester Health Foundation

The man who has led the Greater Rochester Health Foundation since its inception in 2006 is stepping down. John Urban, who before he joined the foundation as president and CEO led the HMO Preferred Care for 21 years, will be leaving the health foundation effective at the end of July.

Urban says since the Health Foundation recently adopted a new long term strategy, it's a good time to retire so that a new leader can get on board.

He says the new strategy that will be in place focuses on children up to age 8, since there is increasing evidence that during those first 8 years, there are things that happen in terms of brain formation that stay with a person for life. 

“So if those opportunities for appropriate stimulation and appropriate growth aren’t present, we are potentially damaging people for life,” Urban told WXXI News. 

Urban says the purpose of the foundation is to focus on improving health status, not health care. He says a good description of that is that the organization focuses on the shape a person is in before they get into the doctor's office.

Urban says there has been some progress in health status in the Rochester area, but there's a lot of work still to do, including trying to reduce the rates of obesity.

Among the things Urban has worked on during his tenure is looking for ways to improve management of blood pressure, and helping push for a grassroots change across neighborhoods to improve the health of  residents.

Urban says the pockets of extreme poverty in parts of the region do factor in to the kind of health and risk factors experienced by people not only in the city, but across the 9-county region served by the health foundation.  And besides poverty, Urban says race is also a factor in contributing to the overall health of many people.

“Even as you look at upper income people of color, their health status is probably not as good as upper income Caucasians. So that the combination of race and poverty in fact can be deadly.”

The foundation will conduct a nationwide search for a replacement for Urban.