| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Aug 18 Technology investor Esther
Dyson thinks she has found the answer to America's growing
health concerns, and has enlisted five smaller cities across the
country to try and prove it.
Dyson, an early investor in Square and board member for
Yandex, Russia's answer to Google Inc, has drafted
five towns to participate in a five-year long test, or what she
calls a "healthy living challenge."
By introducing programs and urban planning initiatives, such
as wholesome school lunches, corporate wellness programs and
more bike paths, Dyson hopes to reduce overall rates of obesity
and chronic disease in these towns.
Dyson calls this the "Way to Wellville," where such programs
reinforce each other, promote awareness, and hopefully avert
expensive healthcare costs over the long term.
Its sponsor is a nonprofit organization called the Health
Initiative Coordinating Council, or HICCup, which Dyson founded.
HICCup will help local officials find funding from social
investors, local businesses and philanthropic organizations.
Each of the towns expects to spend between $20 million and
$80 million over the next five years. HICCup, run by former
insurance executive Rick Brush, has set aside some $5 million
for administrative costs.
The five towns are: Muskegon, Michigan; Lake County,
California; Spartanburg, South Carolina; Clatsop County, Oregon;
and Niagara falls, New York. These communities all have
populations of less than 100,000 people, and their local
officials are fully on board with the initiative, Dyson said.
Dyson hopes to establish a model for other communities and
provide direct feedback to policymakers in government. Her
experiment is timely, given the Obama Administration's support
for "population health" initiatives as a means to cut spiraling
costs. Population health advocates push for increased funding
for preventative measures for groups of patients to reduce rates
of chronic illness.
For instance, if a town invests a small sum into programs to
inform citizens about the health risks associated with fast
food, as well as counseling for pre-diabetes, it could avoid
thousands of dollars in medical care and reduced work
"The programs by and large won't be remarkable," Dyson said.
"What's remarkable is doing them together, reinforcing one
another, and critical density, in small self-contained
communities where they will have maximum impact."
(Reporting By Christina Farr. Editing by Andre Grenon)