Practicum Highlight: Ben Bulkley, MPH’18
Community: Four-county region in Michigan North of Flint: Saginaw, Bay, Midland, and Isabella Counties (450,000 residents)
Opportunity: With active non-profit organizations in the region—Michigan Health Improvement Alliance (MiHIA) and the Great Lakes Bay Region Alliance—this area north of Michigan has potent resources that can be utilized in developing programs aimed at improving health, health delivery, and economic growth. Not only does the area have strong community organizations, it also has a solid anchor employer in Dow Chemical, as well as a significant health care ecosystem including four hospitals and a medical school. In 2017, the Rippel Foundation’s national health initiative, ReThink Health, joined with MiHIA and the Great Lakes Bay Region Alliance to support a Health and Economy Initiative. This work included collecting stakeholder perspectives, mapping the system of health, and helping move toward a shared commitment on the most impactful initiatives. Thanks to an introduction from Dartmouth Institute Director Elliott Fisher, Ben Bulkley—whose past experience includes serving as the president of Aetna Pharmacy and vice president of Aetna specialty business—was able to bring his experience as a business leader to the project.
“When I was working on the business side, I didn’t realize fully the role that business could play in influencing the health of a community,” Bulkley says. “Now, that I’m pursuing this area of research, I think the potential is significant, particularly if we’re able to connect with the innovators from the business community who already see the power of investing strategically with other stakeholders.”
Impact and Next Steps: Bulkley’s work on the initiative included conducting 75 stakeholder interviews in Saginaw, including an in-depth interview with the former Dow Chemical Chief Medical Officer. He also contributed to the design of the interview protocol and highlighted perspectives through the lens of a business leader. Insights gained included a confirmation of the powerful role anchor employers can play in convening, shaping, and governing a community process; how difficult it is to break out of the “medical establishment bias without a change of incentives;” and that while philanthropic efforts can be a driving force, they are often highly fragmented.
These insights were used by the team at ReThink when mapping priorities for the next steps in the project, while next steps for Bulkley, personally, include traveling across the country to interview business leaders in other areas that have solid anchor employers.
“There are several areas around the country in which individual companies are still the major employers, and the potential they have to impact the health and well-being of the community there is quite significant,” Bulkley says. “I want to understand exactly what the narrative is and how we can better harness the untapped potential of the business community under these circumstances.”
POSTED 1/3/2018 AT 04:16 PM IN #practicum
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