Wellthcare Receives its First Grant

Pritpal S Tamber

February 6, 2014

To understand health in ways other than the deficit model, to find real-world examples of health creation, and to hear the perspective of funders in this space

Today, the Explorers and I are proud to announce that we’ve received a grant from the London-based Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity (GSTC). The award of £20,000 will go towards exploring whether there is enough thinking and doing out there to warrant a conference on ‘creating health’.

Over the next four months I will be getting guidance from the Explorers and meeting with people on three broad areas:

1.     Understanding and valuing health in ways other than the deficit model
2.     Finding real-world examples of health creation, including the value models used
3.     Hearing the perspective of funders, especially on how they justify the investment

If you have a perspective to share, we’d love to hear from you. Above is the one-pager (PDF) we’ve created with the Charity to explain the project.

My friend and former colleague, Ivan Oransky, the VP Global Editorial Director of MedPage Today, first announced the grant in his blog. As befits the world-renowned health journalist that he is, he asked me some tough questions to see if it was worth covering, especially on how Wellthcare relates to social determinants of health. I’ll leave you to read the full piece on his page but (perhaps narcissistically) will quote that specific answer:

We’ve known about social determinants of health for some time now, but we’re yet to move the needle on them. At Wellthcare we think there are two reasons for this. Firstly, social interventions are, by nature, complex — their outcomes are emergent, unpredictable, making it hard to invest in because the benefits are unclear. Secondly, from a modelling standpoint, measuring benefit on the basis of reduced healthcare costs limits it to the aforementioned 20%; it may be that we can find more value if we look at what we’re creating in the 80%. We need to build on what we know of social determinants to experiment, collect empirical evidence, and find multiple ways to value the outcomes, both in the 20% and the 80%.

Some of you may have noticed that we’ve changed the Wellthcare homepage. Over the last month, the Explorers and I have been drafting a Manifesto to reflect our thinking to date. We’ll publish it soon, but the process, combined with my paradigm-shifting conversation with Nancy Adler, has crystallised for us that what we’re talking about is creating health – specifically activating the innate capacity of communities to take care of each other, the innate capacity being their Wellth.

We’ve also made it more explicit that Wellthcare is an exploration, partly by simply saying so and partly by introducing a timeline. This is in response to the many people who have scratched their heads and asked me for an elevator pitch. I think elevator pitches are great if you’re genuinely riding an elevator with a venture capitalist and have 12 seconds to convince him or her to give you a wodge of cash for your brilliant product. But they’re largely rubbish if – as we so sorely need in health – what you’re doing is thinking, and slowly discovering, in the open space of the Internet. That said, describing Wellthcare as an exploration to find new ways to value health seems to be reducing the head scratching.

I started this post by saying that we are proud. While some may think it a deadly sin, part of my pride is in the fact that GSTC exists and is willing to seed new thinking. I say this as someone who has often bemoaned the paucity of courageous debate in the UK. We desperately need new perspectives and voices in health, something that the US does fantastically well, most notably through the work of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. If GSTC’s grant signals an intention to radically challenge the current (largely paternalistic and pedestrian) debate on health and health care it can only be a good thing, irrespective of what happens to Wellthcare.

I’ll end this largely inward-looking post with a recent tweet from one of my favourite organisations, the Democracy Collaborative. It’s not so much the recognition of our work that excited me but the idea that Wellthcare is being described as a “movement”. We are, indeed, “a small group of committed people”, to quote the cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead. For the time being we don’t have the resources to do much more than explore but we ask that you share these posts with your friends and colleagues and encourage them to sign up for the Wellthcare newsletter. Perhaps, just perhaps, we’re at the start of an interesting (and important) journey.

Join us.

This post was made possible by the kind support of  Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, a catalyst for innovation in health. We’ll be adding this note to the end of every post for the next four months. GSTC have also kindly agreed to share Schedule 2 of the grant application, the part in which the project is proposed and justified. We hope you find it informative.

This post was first published on Wellthcare

Pritpal S Tamber

I’m a doctor who trained as a medical editor and publisher and now researches and consults on the link between community power and health equity. My interest in community power started when I was the Physician Editor of TEDMED and is explained in My Perspective. I also work as a freelance medical editor and publisher for organisations that want to write high-quality articles and a strategy for their publishing and promotion. Find out more on my About page.

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