Posted by: Knightbird | September 10, 2010

Milk and Change

Anna Bernasek shares information in her book, “The Economics of Integrity,” about our attitudes regarding the safety of our milk supply. This story is from her book.

I had milk on my bowl of cereal this morning, and I didn’t think twice about whether the milk was safe. I bought is late last night, and opened it this morning. The carton was safety sealed, and I pulled it out of a cooled dairy case. The expiration date was listed as October 15, 2010. I trust our milk supply not to hurt me. This was not true around the turn of the century, however.

Louis Pasteur discovered pasteurization in 1862. The technology became available to ensure the safety of our milk supply. The milk I used this morning was pasteurized. Wonderful, or, was it.

In 1892, the owner of Macy’s department store, Nathan Straus, noted the high mortality of children in New York during the summer months. He suspected that milk was the culprit and started a campaign to make pasteurized and refrigerated milk available to all. His major opponents [In the words of Gomer Pyle, Surprise, Surprise, Surprise] were none other than the agricultural industry and – the medical establishment. Yes, the medical establishment. By 1917, cities across the country were establishing regulations for the sale of milk, and child mortality went down dramatically.

Countless numbers of infant and child lives were lost when the knowledge existed to change. Active opposition from an expected source [because it would mean more work] and an unexpected source [the medical establishment] delayed implementation of life saving measures. Why?

Lean Healthcare saves lives. Virginia Mason’s improvements have been acknowledged by prestigious national awards.

“Hospitals receiving the award are among the top 5 percent in the nation, in terms of mortality and complication rates, for 28 procedures and diagnoses evaluated by HealthGrades. Patients treated at distinguished hospitals are, on average, 27 percent less likely to face mortality and 14 percent less likely to suffer from a major complication.”

Bolton Hospitals in the UK reduced mortality in their trauma emergency pathway by 36% by using lean healthcare.

Resistance to adopting lean healthcare as an management culture is declining. It needs to decline faster because, like resistance to pasteurization and refrigeration for milk, it is costing lives.


  1. […] in Alaska (Patrick Anderson) – “Milk and Change“: A healthcare CEO writes “Resistance to adopting lean healthcare as an management […]

  2. […] in Alaska (Patrick Anderson) – “Milk and Change“: A healthcare CEO writes “Resistance to adopting lean healthcare as an management […]

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