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Saturday Bike Rides with Bob: Tackling Socio-economic Problems

Posted by Joe Antle on September 6, 2021 7:35 AM EDT
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In our last Saturday bike ride, Bob agreed to accept my challenge of asking a core question that is at the heart of the HealthETeams Group focus....

...the concept of applying innovation at scale to resolve some of society's most vexing problems---reducing the cost and dependence on an overwhelmed healthcare system by living healthier lives improving the wellbeing of more people. through means other than healthcare facilities, pharmaceuticals, and surgeries.

Before posing the question for discussion, I provided Bob some context and background.  We particularly focused on the challenge being one that would require significant improvements in what we now call the seven essential dimensions of wellbeing:  physical, emotional, financial, career, social, community, and spiritual.  I raised the bar by pointing out the impact that the aging population (Bob agreed with that citing that 12,000 adults turn 65 years old every day) and the healthcare crisis in general and financial issues associated with retirement, all adversely affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic and the focus on racial inequity.

So, given that brief tee-up for the question, I asked Bob to provide his perspective on the following question.  What are the three or four key actions that need to be taken to create a breakthrough in reducing the costs and dependence on the ever-increasing healthcare system at a time where many adults are not prepared for retirement financially, living longer lives, and where health is in general decline?

Bob began his remarks by disclaiming any expertise or deep studying related to public policy and large-scale socio-economic changes that can be brought on by technology.  In fact, he voiced skepticism that large-scale social changes can be brought on by advance, preventative actions.  His bias he said is that people will not change their behaviors as it relates to healthier lifestyle choices and wellbeing until the situation becomes so dire and extreme, that there is only emergency choices that will drive change among large numbers of people.  In fact, he said while he believes it is worthy and important to involve oneself in helping others, he prefers to focus on his own individual efforts with groups of people he comes in contact with through his spiritual and volunteer efforts.  In this way, one can truly affect meaningful and sustainable changes that improve people's lives, but he is doubtful that it can be done in short order over a large population base unless the issue becomes so critical that there are no other choices.

In fact, Bob quoted a couple of scriptures whereby his religious perspective brings to him guidance.  One should focus on first making the changes in themselves, and then through witnessing and deep support of others help them to do the same thing.  Bob seemed to suggest that while he is not an expert in public policy, innovation applied to healthcare itself-say in pharmaceuticals, medical procedures and treatment services.  It is in these areas where Bob believes that there must be the focus and in the current environment with COVID-19 being such a prevalent area of need, the other longer-term issues seem to become secondary.

I thanked Bob for his candor and his candid remarks.  And we both agreed that just because there are not ready solutions at the beck and call of all people, that finding the right path forward is a worthy trek.  So, I asked him to react to a suggestion of areas of society where such paths may be found.  He said okay, so I posed the following-or course with some bit of background and context.

I told Bob that it seemed to me that based on some very interesting books I had read a few years back, namely former IMC Chairman Louis Gerstner's "Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?", the story of the IBM turnaround of the early 1990's and Peter Drucker's, "Managing in the Next Society".  Gerstner's book dedicates an entire chapter to the importance of the privdate sector in providing resources-financial, knowledge, people and insight-to the  nonprofit sector as a distribution channel for solutions that can dramatically improve the plight of the underserved population.  Drucker's entire book spells out the importance of collaboration between the public sector, private sector, NGOs such as education and healthcare institutions and nonprofits and religious sector as the way forware "in the next society" for driving large-scale improvements in socio-economic problems of our era.  To that I suggested several policy type innovations which could trigger the "tipping point" of change in favor of improving lifestyles versus spending more and more money on remediation, invest in solutions that reduce risk and drive prevention and recovery from serious illness or other conditions that affect a large portion of society's physical, emotional, financial, career, social, community and spiritual wellbeing.

My suggestions are:

-Provide publicly subsidized healthcare costs only if/when recipients take specific action to reduce their risks and to support others going through the same process

-Create platforms such as has been done by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for funding workable solutions in third-world countries for education, healthcare, and economic prosperity.

- Provide significant tax incentives for profitable private sector companies to provide meaningful financial, human, and knowledge resources to nonprofits that address the key socio-economic areas of focus for society.

Bob responded in a predictable upbeat but measured way by simply saying that he thinks this makes sense.  But he again disclaimed, that he is not a public policy expert or innovation guru on socio-economic challenges.

He concluded by picking up on the second of my three ideas.  He expressed some intrigue around the idea of focused resource support through nonprofits as a way to shift resources from abundant sources to organizations and initiatives serving the less fortunate. While Bob was clear that he isn't interested in broad public policy changes, he also expressed support for the potential of finding ways to create scale and expand the things that actually do work, the everyday people can do and are doing every day that can be solutions other peopld can do to benefit others who are less fortunate.  He has always,been a proponent for implementing proven best practices and on this broad issue of socieo-economic progress, his approach would not be different.

It seems that Bob has been doing quite a bit of reading and "amateur researcher" background work on the concept of "what's enough".  So, he said that he'd like our next Saturday bike ride to explore the concept of how do we change society's focus on the need of individuals to constantly strive for getting more and more, and instead begin to move thinking to create values that support people getting enough....and then supporting others who are not getting enough.  And the bias will again not be on public policy or innovation per se.

Knowing the way that Bob thinks when it comes to high concept issues, he will likely want our next conversation on this topic of "what's enough" to result in specific actions that everyday people can take that will positively impact the wellbeing of others and of themselves.  And we'll try to keep the lens on actions that everyday people can do and are doing every day in a small scale way.  And maybe Bob will accept the notion of expanding  the thought slightly to think about how those deeds can be brought to scale-in ways that don't require government mandates, restrictions and regulation....keeping in mind the powerful potential of "tipping points".  

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