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Transforming community well-being through urban services

If there’s a lesson to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be the importance of building long-term community resilience – and of doing so through cross-sector initiatives.

Tackling health and well-being at a macro level is no easy task and demands the attention of coalitions – city leaders, providers, payers, employers, and individual residents united in addressing community well-being – to match the stakes and complexity involved in overcoming a culture of “sick care.”

The key to powering these transformations is a human-centric approach to developing thriving populations in sustainable communities. This concept, both simple and nuanced, defines Sharecare’s urban services. Rather than deciding that a new technology or infrastructure is inherently good or bad for cities, urban services focus on driving holistic resident well-being as the primary goal across elements in our environments. Efforts to help people flourish in all areas of their lives – across their individual health and social circumstances – can and should incorporate infrastructure and technology where appropriate but should not treat them as ends in themselves.

Sharecare’s research and interventions support a framework that characterizes successful community well-being transformation efforts, enabling physical, mental, and fiscal resilience across the footprint. The framework consists of:

  • A bottom-up approach – Successful cross-sector initiatives are community-driven at the grassroots. The most successful of these initiatives, as we’ve seen with Blue Zones Project by Sharecare, will be strategic partnerships between city leaders, local companies, healthcare organizations, and residents.
  • Data- and evidence-based design – Community well-being efforts can intimidate employers with accountability to many stakeholders. Part of the concern stems from insufficient clarity about the return on investment (ROI) to the organization itself and the surrounding communities. Traditionally, environmental, social, and governance efforts have struggled to define clear and measurable outcomes due to a lack of high-quality data. The good news is that purpose-built measurement tools like our Community Well-Being Index can surface mutually beneficial opportunities for communities, employers, providers, and payers to take aim. With dynamic community-level data, these organizations can target high-ROI programs and interventions at the social determinants of health that shape up to 80% of health outcomes for their populations.
  • Informed use of technology – Rather than retrofitting solutions, urban services-minded community well-being coalitions start by putting the community and its residents at the center of any initiative. The next step is to incorporate insights from tools — such as Sharecare’s Index — as a means of identifying and regularly re-evaluating tech-enabled engagement efforts.
  • Future-proofing backward – One way technology can appropriately support urban services efforts is through the use of “digital twins,” which help leaders game out strategies and tactics by creating simulations that predict how a product or process will respond in a given scenario. 
  • A sustainable business model – Most community transformation efforts, while well-intentioned, suffer from unsustainable, philanthropy-driven business models that get stuck in “pilot purgatory.” However, outcomes-based funding models, such as what Sharecare is creating with digital infrastructure investment firm Digital Alpha, would ensure sustainability beyond the initial investment.

At Sharecare, we’re encouraged to see more leaders recognize that models for community health must transcend simply addressing illness by investing in preventive measures that create sustainable environments where healthy people live and thrive. With the powerful combination of our high-tech and high-touch solutions and dedicated partners across sectors, we believe each transformed community brings us closer to a healthier world and future.

**Note: A longer version of this blog post was published originally on Cities Today.