tv Tavis Smiley WHUT July 11, 2009 10:30pm-11:00pm EDT
[captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: good evening. i'm tavis smiley. first up tonight, the state of health care in the u.s. and dr. michael roizen from the cleveland clinic. it is hell up as a model for what a health provider should look like. he's at the forefront of efforts to support healthy lifestyles. also tonight, a conversation with a legendary figure in business. peter peterson. he went on to serve in a number of key positions, including secretary of commerce. his memoirs, the -- coming up right now.
program, sir. >> privilege, tavis. tavis: let me start by asking this question, how hopeful you are about the conversation we're having right now around health care in america. as you know, we tried this before. >> if we really focus on health care and not just illness care and if we focus on more than just access, access is important, but if we focus on more than just access, i'm really hopeful, because we have a chance of radically imprfing health and radically decreasing costs if we do it right. tavis: tell me about the first distinction that you referenced. >> the cleveland clinic is rated number one in heart care by "u.s. news and world report" 15 years in a row. but our leader realized if we have a lead, we can't just be graded illness care, we got to be great at that, but we've got to get interest health care and
that is keeping people well. we want, in fact, we need a lot of organizations to join us in this. we spend a lot of money on illness care and if we go to health care, we can reduce that substantially. tavis: i know what illness care is. te fine for me what you mean and the cleveland clinic defines as wellness care. >> wellness care and the focus on lifestyle changes is tobacco, physical inactivity. food choices and stress account for over 75% of our total cost of care. that is we're twice as expensive as europe and three times as asia, because we have twice the chronic disease of europe and three times of asia because of those factors. tobacco, inactivity, food choices and stress. those are under our control and helping our employees get control of those is what we're doing.
tavis: a lot of those things are linked. you know that better than i do. so where does one start with wellness care? >> we started with tobacco if you will because it is the greatest cause of getting all toxins off the environment. and then doing the others simultaneously, helping educate and nudge and coax and make people understand that it is in their best interests, not just from an economic standpoint but from a jobs standpoint, and from a feeling of energy quality of life, of doing more physical activity. just walking is a key component. and then it is -- of making the right food choices, so we don't eat the five foods that age you. and then, learning how to manage stress, which is really a -- a small component if you will of time, but a huge component of how well you live and -- live life. tavis: i don't mean to be a
cynic with this question, but i'm curious about your take on this. pretty much everything you listed, those things that are preventable, are things any american with a bit of good sense. i'm going to assume most of us have is some sense, we know they're bad for us. we know smoking is pad. you play choose to smoke but you know it is bad for you. you choose to eat bad foods. you know bad foods are bad for you. you know overweight is bad for you. you know when you're tpwhot overweight and you know exercise is good for you. i'm walking through that deliberately so i can ask this question. since this is stuff we already know, how do we get traction on these issues? >> this is part of what we're doing and part of the continued effort of getting you, getting each of our employees, getting each of the citizatients and our communities emotionally involved
with the bodies. that's what we have been doing with the books. now we're showing at the cleveland clinic that we can do this for our employees. we lowered our health care cost from 50% of the national average for health care organizations on a per person age adjusted basis to 44%. so we're doing what that bending the curve, we're actually bending it backwards. and we can do that because when you get people emotionally involved with their health, they start to do those things that you have already said, you go to our sky ways, if you went there 21/2 years ago, they were empty summer and winter. people weren't walking. now they're crowded. that's a great sign. we have taken our fitness clubs and they have more than doubled since we made them free. when we made tobacco cessation, we banned it on campus and put teeth behind it and actually
said we're giving it away. we're giving tobacco cessation programs a way, not only to the employees and everyone in the community we did for six months. we got 16,000 people in our county off of cigarettes. we got 4,000 of our employees and 1,000 dependents off. so you could do these things and it actually is changing costs. the question is does it return on investment? we're showing that these things have a real return on investment. we take patients with diabetes and coronaries artery disease or any one of 21 diseases and get them into a program where we teach them how to cook and stress management and a little physical activity. say it is really lifestyle treatment of chronic disease. we're lowering those costs and making them feel healthier. they're feeling better in a short period of time. >> you hit on something i want to go back to now.
i think it is one of the linchpins for turning health care around in this country. that is that moos american companies are realizing, and i think the word is getting out to every day herns that work in the companies, what is bankrupting america and the system is these corporations cannot continue to carry the costs of unhealthy workers. and so i want to come back to the point you made now about the cleveland clinic and how it engages its workers. two points. the first is something that blew me away when i learned this. at the cleveland clinic you all don't even hire people who do smoke and somehow that's legal. >> in something around 43 states, it is legal to not hire smokers. that is we test them. we -- if they smoke and we're going to offer them a job, we offer them free smoking cessation program. we'll reoffer them the job after they gets off cigarettes. we think -- we really believe that we should be a toxin-free
environment. our wall covers, our carpets, we aren't replacing the ones but as we get to replace them, they will be replaced with things that anyone could eat. so the point is, we believe that it is better for our patients, better for our employees to be in a totally toxin-free environment. the greatest toxin we have in america is cigarettes. tavis: talk to me secondarily about how it is that we can in fact turn this process around, dr. roizen in america if we can figure out a strategy, a system by which companies don't have to carry unhealthy employees. >> well, i don't know that we should say we don't carry unhealthy employees. we motivate healthy employees and knock down barriers so unhealthy employees can get healthy. people come in my office and say, you can't walk here from the other side of the room and -- in four months, we get them so they're walking 10,000 steps
a day and feeling much better. it is only too late to reverse the problem for the individual when you're six feet under. until then, we get to change it. you get to change it and it is such an important problem for our competitiveness, for jobs and for our standard of living, we've made it an issue trying to motivate people. the the motivation has to be fun. it has to be edgy like your show. it also has to be scientifically valid. we can make it that way. tavis: help me understand from your perspective, how this conversation can be -- to the extent that it will be at the eppie center at whatever kind of health care legislation we're ultimately, we hope going to get from the obama administration signed into law. >> what we have had so far or we've seen is a plan that gets better access and is worried
about bending it with getting a little better competitiveness. but the real discussion is -- are we going to continue diabetic tick treatment as the treatment with medicines and surgery only. are we going to start to pay for lifestyle treatment so that we can bend the curve by teaching people how to take better care of themselves. we in america have knocked out that process of paying for teaching people how to do this themselves. if we can get that into the discussion. if we could get a lifestyle treatment in this, rather than better access and rather than just a little less expensive drugs or less expensive surgery or e more efficient systems. we need those. don't get me wrong, but we can really bend the needle and the curve when we get lifestyle treatment if chronic disease and then get people to infuse the culture by doing that all the time. tavis: the cleveland clinic is leading the way on this wellness
conversation. dr. roizen is the chief wellness officer at the cleveland clinic. congratulations on the success you had already. thanks for sharing your ibr insights. up next former commerce secretary pete peterson. stay with us. peter peterson's life would sound like the stuff of a great american fiction piece if it weren't all true. the son of freeing immigrants worked at a diner in nebraska before turning blackstone into a billion dollar em peer. he's secretary of commerce. and as for his legacy you only need to look at the money that is endowed for his foundation. he joins us tonight from new york. nice to have you on the program, sir. >> thank you so much. tavis: it is hard to know where to start this conversation.
i suspect that what makes sense is to start at least from my tastes, with the name, peter g. peterson. you tell a fascinating story about how your father changed the name. tell me that story. >> my father's older brother came over from greast first and he was working on the railroad and -- he at least alleges that they were complaining that pet drop liss which was their original name, and poulos in greece was too hard to pronounce and why didn't they change it. so they changed it to peterson. son of peter, which is a direct transhation of what the name is in greek. tavis: i wonder, to your point, he alleges how you think your life might have bone different without the ring, this peter g. peterson had a ring to it.
had your father stuck with that original name, what do you think your life might have been? >> when i pronounce my name peter peterson it sounds like i was born to be redundant. [laughter] it is an interesting question as to whether in those early days having a a long greek name might have been a problem. i never experienced that directly. but as you know, prejudice can be very indirect and implicit. i do remember this much. the include klux klan pictured my father's restaurant with the sign that said don't eat with the greek. so there was obviously some prejudice there. and they didn't have any blacks and -- in nebraska, so they took another step and went to the freaks, i guess, so there must have been some prejudice. tavis: how were you about this time, do you recall?
>> i was about eight or nine years old when i started working in the restaurant. i took cash. always pretty good at math. i made changes at the cash register. i was an aggressive character. my father had meal tickets in which you could get $5.50 worth of food for $5 if you paid the $5 in cash. i kept careful track at the cash register of which meal tickets were nearly running out. when i saw one that was almost out, i would run over to the table and say, are you sure you don't want a meal ticket? because i wanted the receipts to be as high as possible that day. 1cr506 you were selling even as a kid. i asked how old you were around the time of that clan story, because i'm curious as to what kind of impact that has on a kid when he sees his father's business being pictured clearly
because of race or e-ethnicity. >> they shieldled me from seeing it so all i heard was the stories. my reaction would have been different if i had seen the robes that the klan wore, but it didn't have a great deal of impact on me, no. tavis: coming here with nothing, how did your father get in position to own a business in the first place? >> he took a job no one else wanted as a dishwasher in the caboose of the union pacific railroad that was being built. the reason no one wanted it, as you probably know, sitting in the sun in nebraska without air conditioning in the summer, 120 degrees, outside, i can't imagine what it was inside, washing dishes with this steaming hot dishes and everything. nobody wanted that job but he took it because he was smart
enough to realize that he could sleep on the caboose and get free meals on the caboose, so he was able to save every penny he made to put in the restaurant. i learned a lot from him about being a workaholic. some would say i learned the lesson too well and saving if the future. he taught me that. he also taught me philanthropy. they used to call them bums in those days, hobos, but you play recall during the depression, unemployment was 25 to -- percent or so average but it was higher than that in certain farm &s. so every day so called bums or hobos would line up at the back door of the kitchen and my father had his own welfare for -- for -- -- work for welfare program that as long as each of these people it work, he would feed them something.
he did this same thing with his village back home he paid -- he paved the streets and paid for a water system and he really made it important to my life to give money back and -- he loved this country. the only song he knew was god bless america. and whenever he sang it, tears would run down his cheeks. so he taught me a lot about hard work and saving for the future and about giving back. and i -- i will always be grateful for him. in my book i mention lessons i learned and one is, always focus in your work on two areas if you can. number one, on those areas where you have some kind of comparative advantage. in your own words, your strength. the second criterion is having passion for your work. because if you're good at it and your passionate about it, you're much more likely to succeed.
and the corollary of that is -- avoid jobs that play pay a little more that don't play to your strengths, that play to your weaknesses like retailing in the case of peter g. peterson or jobs you don't have much passion for because you're not likely to be successful in those long-term. even though they play pay a little more or have a bigger office or have a bigger title at the beginning. but you ought to be in a career for the long-term, not the immediate term. tavis: was it always your goal to make money or did you end up making money by the choices that you made? >> i've been called relentless liane lit cal, so i decided i ought to get into a field that was -- that in which the heart of the business was analysis. so i went to work for a market research firm and god, what a contrast between market research
and retailing for me. it was all analyzing people's attitudes and statistics and so forth. and i was not only pretty good at it but i loved it. i rose very rapidly in that field as a result. tavis: what was it about -- that kind of research that had so much money in it? >> well, you were participating in certain rather big decisions. for example one client was ford motor company. and they were looking if ideas on how they could sell more ford cars. so we did some very interesting research on how people felt like -- about fords versus chevys and plymoths. for example, we showed people a picture of a car that had just ben in an accident. but you couldn't see what kind of car it was. we asked people, tell us the
story about how this happened. and if -- if there were a wreck there, they were much more likely to say it was a ford owner. in your own words, people tended to think of fords as being driven by people who just loved power and they didn't think that cars were made very well. and we told them that if they wanted to sell more fords to chevy owners, they would have to cover some of their concerns. and their concerns were, that the cars were -- weren't really built terribly well and weren't terribly safe. so then we told them, how people decided what made a car safe or not safe. and you remember everybody says they want to kick the tires? well that turned out to be a cliche that was not the case. when we tried to find out how did people decide if a car was solid or not, it was by opening and chosing the door. and you know, hearing the click.
that comes when the car is about the well -- built well. we did that kind of, what you might call psychological analysis. tavis: i get it now. i get it now how it is that companies would pay a hot of money for that kind of research and information. it leads to the obvious question for me, which is whether or not you believe in today's world that kind of data research, that information is still as valuable and as accurate? >> i'm sure it is. there's nothing like understanding the consumer. i'm a big admirer of the gentleman that runs proctor and gamble that has so many, you know, successful products for the home. and -- talk to him one day about his secret. in effect, he was his own kind of consumer research man. for example, he told me when he went to a foreign country, one of the things he would go is spend a couple of days in people's homes. and he would watch them using
his -- their categories of products. then he would ask them questions about what they wanted and what they liked and what they didn't like. and so forth. i think if you're going to be successful today, whether you do formal market research or informal market research. you've got to understand the consumer and what that consumer is looking for. tavis: does your life. it is not over yet, and i'm glad it is not but does it feel complete? does it feel like you covered the bases and you've come full circle being able to do the philanthropy that you're doing now? i asked that because you talked about your father and the lessons he taught you. it sounds like given your philanthropy now and you've learned those lessons. >> i never thought in a billion years i would ever have a billion dollars and i had more than enough, so i decided to give it to this foundation that
i set up and -- the main purpose of this foundation is to make it possible for the next generation to also enjoy the american dream the way i did. and one of the things that worries me a great deal about this country today is we piled up such huge debts and, it is huge obligations that we're doing something quite immoral that imperils the american dream. we're handling of trls of dollars of debt to our own children that, that are not going to be financeable. we are handing over trls of promises that would mean tremendous increases in taxes on our own kids. and the idea of slipping your kids the check for our free lunch is not my idea of what my father was trying to teach me. tavis: it is a great legacy and back story to the legacy of peter g. peterson. his book is called "the education of an american dreamer
." how he earned his way from a diner to wall street and beyond. all the best to you, sir. >> thank you so much. tavis: catch me on the weekends on public radio international. you can catch us at pbs.org. i'll see you next time. until then, good night from l.a. and as always keep the faith. >> for more information visit tavis at pbs.org. tavis: join me next time for a look at best cancer and cancer survival, diane carroll. we'll see you then. nationwide insurance proudly supporters tavis smilely.