Alliance for Health president plans retirement

Alliance for Health president plans retirement

Lody Zwarensteyn.

Lody Zwarensteyn, president of the Grand Rapids-based Alliance for Health, advised his board last week that he plans to retire in August 2014.

Zwarensteyn said the board has not made a formal decision on his replacement, but he expects his successor to be Paul W. Brand, who joined the Alliance in mid July as executive vice president.

Zwarensteyn, 66, joined the Alliance in September 1972 as a planner.

Within a year, he was promoted to assistant director and then later executive vice president.

He began leading the Alliance in the mid 1990s when he was named president.

Optimal health

Alliance for Health is a nonprofit organization, a broad-based community coalition that serves Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola and Ottawa counties.

The nonprofit is dedicated to the encouragement of optimal health for all residents through high-quality health care services at the lowest cost, by bringing together all related parties to work together on health-related community priorities and initiatives.

A key role is its service as an advisor to the Michigan Department of Community Health on Certificate of Need applications filed by hospitals and clinics, which wish to expand or build new health care facilities.

Member-based budget

The Alliance’s budget is slightly more than $1.5 million. It is funded by voluntary contributions from its approximately 250 members and occasional grants.

The members are mainly businesses, community organizations and local government entities, although some members are individuals. Businesses that are members include some of the largest employers in the region, such as all three of the major hospitals in the region, as well as Amway, Meijer, Steelcase, Wolverine Worldwide, Gentex, Irwin Seating and Lacks. Many much-smaller businesses are also members, as are labor unions, local colleges and universities, foundations, chambers of commerce and others.

Zwarensteyn said the Alliance receives “very broad based support from the broader local community, and we’re always looking for new members.”

Health care professional services

The Alliance offers a variety of health care professional services, including planning, project evaluation, information and data and consultation and technical assistance.

About 45 percent of the Alliance budget is used to provide consultants, mainly to the Michigan Center for Clinical Systems Improvement, a multi-stakeholder collaborative of health plans, provider organizations and other health care organizations.

One of its information and data services is the annual employers health plan costs survey and hospital performance measures.

When Zwarensteyn joined the Alliance for Health, it had nine employees. Today there are eight.

New York or bust

Zwarensteyn worked as a teacher after he received his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, while also attending graduate school. He earned a master’s degree in geography, with an emphasis on medical geography.

“At that time, about the only place where anybody knew what a medical geographer was, was at the United Nations,” Zwarensteyn said. “So I had hoped to go to the United Nations and work at the office of the medical geographer. Unfortunately, it takes a little money to go to New York and live for a while when you’re casting for a job.”

He also noted that the individual who held the job at the UN wasn’t ready to retire.

“So I got a job in Grand Rapids with the Alliance for Health, figuring I’d work for a little while, save up a little bit of money and then go to New York. Well, I’m still waiting to go to New York.”

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