Esther Dyson shares the story of Way to Wellville and its mission to inspire people to do simple things to stay healthy in order to create a healthy community. She also talks about the specifics of what they’re doing at Way to Wellville: things like prenatal care, early childhood education, diabetes/obesity prevention, smoking cessation, and more.
- In 2013, when I realized I wanted to do this, I started what became the Way to Wellville, which is now a 10-year five-community project to help five small communities become amazingly healthy places, and the idea is not that this is gonna fix everything, but our idea is to show what it looks like when it works, to collect evidence and data to show how much money we save in the long-term and to inspire other people to copy us because we don't want a scale.
We want the world to steal our ideas. Now, how Wellville works is it's not a nice white lady comes from New York and tells people how to behave. It's more a program where, ultimately, 42 communities applied on the basis of having fewer than 100,000 people, being relatively self-contained, so if you change what was in the community, everybody would feel the impact. You didn't need to sign up for it. It was around you.
And finally, you had to have an existing coalition of various different entities that were working together to improve the community's health. In the summer of 2014, we picked 10 of the 42 communities that applied and visited them, and we picked five that we thought were representative of the whole country. They are now Spartanburg, South Carolina, Clatsop County, Oregon, Lake County, California, Muskegon, Michigan, and North Hartford, Connecticut.
So what we're doing specifically in each community is one form of prenatal care, early childhood education, obesity prevention, smoking cessation, dealing with the opioid problem, which in many cases, you can't cure people, but you can help parents who may be, let's face it, jaded and cynical, and, "We don't need no stinkin' health stuff." But if you start talking to them about their kids, most of them, they want a better life for their kids.
They don't want that same cycle to repeat itself, and if you do it right, if you make it convenient enough so it works, if you understand that it's not about hectoring people to behave, but it's about creating better conditions, most people ultimately want to do that. You just need to make it possible for them. So one important thing to understand is for each community, the mayor's goal is more business coming into the city, getting reelected.
The parents' goal is healthy children. The health system's goal is being proud of their record in the community and, ideally, helping to make it a place where things are better. Employers' goal, less absenteeism, more productive employees, well-educated people. The children's goal is "I want to be happy "like the other kids," and so, everyone has a different goal, but it all amounts to 10 years from now, I want you to go into one of these cities and knock on the door of the real estate agent, and that guy or lady is gonna say, "I'm sorry, I'm too busy selling houses.
"People want to move here. "You have to come back next week." It's just, it's a place people want to be because the people there are healthy, and they're living fulfilling lives. They're emotionally and physically at capacity.