The Way to Wellville: A Contest to “Produce Health” in the U.S.

Posted Friday, May 9, 2014 in Innovation by Patricia Seybold

I have known and admired Esther Dyson for a long time. I’ve also been confronted with the urgent need to improve healthcare in my rural community. So I was intrigued to discover that Esther has created an organization (HICCup) dedicated to producing better health in communities. Not healthcare. Health. There’s a big difference. We spend $2.9 billion in the U.S. each year on “healthcare.” Yet our health outcomes are mediocre compared to the rest of the world and getting worse. The biggest issue we are facing in the U.S. is NOT what kind of healthcare we need and who should pay for it. Rather, it’s how can we produce better health in every household and community by focusing on the largely social and behavioral determinants of health.

As an angel investor in over 40 mobile, internet, and e-health companies, Esther Dyson has been following the “Quantified Self” movement. Many of us—particularly Baby Boomers—track our calories, workouts, blood pressure, and heart rates on our mobile devices and look at graphs to see how we’re doing in meeting our personal health goals.

HICCup’s “Health Production” Petri DishWhat if, Esther posits, there were a “Quantified Community” movement, in which communities keep track of the initiatives in their schools, churches, and recreational facilities that actually produce better health outcomes for residents—outcomes like less diabetes, less cancer, fewer teen pregnancies, fewer suicides, as well as outcomes like lower per capita healthcare costs, and fewer hospital admissions. What if we could visualize this data and the interactions between what we’re doing in our communities and how each community is producing better health? 

So, Esther Dyson has decided to jumpstart this movement by running a challenge involving 5 communities, 5 metrics, and 5 years. She calls it the Way to Wellville. I’m quite intrigued by the design of this contest as an innovation framework for tackling wicked problems. Read the full article here.

1 comment


  • Patty_author
    Patricia Seybold on June 18, 2014 at 9:23 p.m.
    Well, my community (Boothbay peninsula) applied, but we were out in the first cut. But Oxford County in Maine is still in the running, so we're cheering them on!
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