After a nationwide search that drew 42 applications from 26 states, five communities were selected to participate in the five-year Way to Wellville challenge. The challenge is sponsored by the Health Initiative Coordinating Council (HICCup), a nonprofit founded by angel investor Esther Dyson to encourage new models and markets for the production of health.
In a recent HICCup blog post "Supersize What Works!" she explains how the communities are in the process this fall of deciding which initiatives to pursue as they move toward launch. She says they are looking not to "pilot" solutions but to implement ones that have already been proven: "The initiatives we are planning are likewise not exotic new experiments, but well-known programs with predictable results. Yes, they depend on trained people to carry them out, and they are being offered to people who greet them with varying degrees of enthusiasm. But the whole point of the Way to Wellville is to help communities apply well-known techniques in sustained initiatives that are accountable, measurable and ultimately fundable."
Learn more about this ambitious initiative in the video interview above with Oliver Wyman's Terry Stone. Read their full interview here and an excerpt from Dyson below:
HICCup is not-for-profit, but the more profit-making things that can happen around it, the better. Profits foster sustainability and scale. Our motto is “Don’t rent your health. Invest in it!” Maybe Greater Wellville will become some kind of online marketplace. We don’t know. It belongs to these communities, and the more they put into it, the more they’ll get out.
Companies and investors should make profits by providing healthy food. They should make a profit by preventing disease and saving a lot of money down the line. So HICCup will work with financial types to create securitized instruments, social impact bonds, contracts. That’s interesting work because you have to untangle issues surrounding state regulation or Medicaid policy.
A single company probably wouldn’t be able to get regulations changed, but HICCup has convening power, and we may be able to make it happen. In the same way, we’ll offer the big food companies a demilitarized-zone test market for healthy food.
We’re not coming in saying, “We’ve got a secret sauce for you.” It’s more like, “These are the objectives, and we’ll help you find people and resources to help you achieve your goals.” We don’t care whether they use this school lunch provider or that one, this diabetes management program or that one. We’ll create a market of sorts and help community residents and leaders to connect with providers.
Ideally, the providers will offer price breaks or special terms because of the visibility they’ll receive, but this is not a controlled randomized trial. It’s much more. The question isn’t “Does this thing work?” but “Will people actually do this thing?"
We’re not coming in and saying we’ve got the magic pill, or even the magic protocol. Because the enthusiasm and persistence with which they follow it is what really matters. If it’s a bunch of rich people trying to apply health to poor people, it’s not going to work. The people themselves need to feel empowered. They have to be ready to say, “We’re through with being manipulated by people trying to keep us sick.” And in the end, it’s not just personal choices; it’s the availability of good choices in places where those good choices are often hard to find.