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"It Takes a Family" and "The Prosperity Paradox": Two Books Worth Reading

Posted by Thomas Edwards on March 22, 2019 12:35 PM EDT
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Two recent books that together can offer ideas for improving population health through applying innovations proven elsewhere can stimulate new thinking....

...with a strong bias to health recovery, or substance abuse recovery.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago in announcing the focus of a future blog post (this one) and when I was on the verge of completing my reading of two very good books ("It Takes A Family" by Debra Jay and "The Prosperity Paradox" by Dr. Clayton Christensen), I had a sense that the two books would stimulate an idea or two.  And at least provide an insight related to my passion for finding ways to apply innovation to improving population health in regional markets.  I was wrong...the two books gave me several!

Ms. Jay's book, "It Takes A Family", focuses on the innovative idea of combining the elements of the successful licensed professionals testing and monitoring programs model within the substance use disorder recovery industry with the power of family or at least groups of people who work together on behalf of helping a loved one recover from their addiction.  Her book makes a powerful case for that notion.  It also provides very specific ways for implementing such a program including group meeting agendas for an entire year and a host of useful forms.

Dr. Christensen's latest book, "The Prosperity Paradox", takes his well-known and acclaimed model of disruptive innovation and applies it to the science of economic development in under-resourced third world countries.  He gives his concept a new spin though, by calling it "market-creating innovation" and by aiming through a wide geographic lens-countries who have not had success driving sustained economic development using the traditional role of the government as being the driving force for change.  He argues effectively for the role of innovation to pull resources into a region or country by creating jobs and other elements to support the innovation's expansion and growth.

My purpose in writing this particular blog post is not to provide a detailed book review for these two books.  You can find that in multiple places with very basic web searches.  And it is likely the reviews will be written by far better book reviewers than me.

Rather, my intent here is to simply mention a few concepts or ideas that reading the two books in a sequential fashion brought to mind.  Interesting, new or novel ideas rarely just happen.  I find that something somehow triggers them.  For some people, walking through nature or doing some robust activity they have not done before can stimulate a good insight.  For others, doing short and energetic brainstorming sessions with other people whose opinions they value does the trick.

For me, it's always about reading.  Then reflecting deeply on key points in what I've read, while trying to draw parallels to an issue that is of interest, or a project that needs a boost will often lead to some ideas that haven't occurred to me before.

So, without spending a lot of time or detail around each of the concepts below, I thought it would be useful to simply list the ones that struck me upon reflection.  These are all related to some aspect of how new approaches or innovation-even recombinant innovation or re-applied innovation-can improve population health "at scale".


1. Framing healthy lifestyle improvements around the lens of recovery

2. Applying the "It Takes A Family" (ITAF) model to regional collective impact projects focused on substance abuse recovery among lower-income people

3. Applying the ITAF model to the type 2 diabetes and framing the solution as a recovery to a healthier lifestyle without dependence on medicine

4. Creating new jobs by having successful addiction recovery participants become addiction recovery coaches as part of their rewards

5. Providing rewards and scholarships to successful addiction recovery participants to attend recovery coaches training and certification

6. Provide financing for urban gardeners to create a healthy lifestyle food supply for inner-city residents-including incentives and marketing support

7. Create events that bring together the "players" that serve various sectors of chronic illness and use the proceeds to fund collective impact projects 

8. Partner with local media organizations to promote the benefits of healthier living and highlight significant people who have helped others succeed

9.  Repackage ITAF-like elements from one industry (licensed professionals) and apply to entire population with lower costs, simplicity and easier access

10.  Apply concepts that are working in using market-creating innovation to stimulate economic prosperity in third world nations to poor regions in U.S.

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