Say hello to the GallupHealthways Well-Being Index (GHWBI). This is intended to be a new generation of quantifying a person’s health in a holistic sense. If it lives up to its promise, the Index could help to transform health in communities.

Gallup-Healthways are defining “health” broadly, based on the World Health Organization definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Suiting this holistic definition, the Index will dive deep into the factors that shape our health, such as a person’s:

  • Access to and affordability of basic needs like food, health care, safety and shelter
  • Individual perceptions of emotional, mental and physical health
  • Job satisfaction and financial security
  • Social networks (both formal, such as family and friends, and community-based, such as religion and other social affiliations)
  • Standard of living.

The first 100,000 aggregated survey results will be released on April 29th. Thereafter, data from 1,000 additional surveys will be added to the index daily. Think of it the GHWBI like you would the Dow Jones Index in that each day, it will adjust based on the added survey findings.

One use of the Index is for employers and communities to use in benchmarking health promotion efforts. In aggregate, groups (say, a state’s public health department) will be able to parse the data to gauge its community’s health vs. other states’. The health department would be able to dive into the data and spot trends that aren’t easily available in other health outcomes tools; for example, that some people feel unsafe to walk in their neighborhoods (thus creating exercise-avoidance in diabetics and pre-diabetics) or lack social networks to help them care for themselves. Tactics could then be developed that target these specific issues. Note that these factors aren’t necessarily “health care” related; as I pointed out in an earlier post this week on “Big Food, Shopping Malls, and Health System Redesign,” solving our health crisis will require a plethora of inter-related stakeholders at the table.

As of now, about 50,000 surveys have been completed. Gallup-Healthways have released a few early findings…

Social networks are important determinants of health, almost as important as physicians in helping people improve and maintain health. 53% of the time, friends/family help individuals improve or maintain health, and 59% of the time physicians do.

1 in 5 people are sandwich-generation caregivers. 18% of workers are balancing going to work full-time and caring for a disabled or elderly family member, relative or friend.

Smoking and unemployment: what’s the relationship? More than 1/3 of unemployed individuals looking for work smoke as compared to about one-fifth of individuals employed on a full-time basis.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: This is an intriguing match between the global polling firm and a leading health management company. Their mission is ambitious: “We envision that the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index will be an important, if not a leading factor in a company’s decisions about health benefits, work environment and corporate culture, as well as providing a new, critical data point about site selection for a new plant or facility.”

One of the most exciting aspects of this collaboration is that the two parties come together from different worlds: survey research and population health management. They have the opportunity to mash up competencies and insights in new ways.

Recently, I’ve heard from various stakeholder types that reform of the U.S. health system will come from ‘outside’ of traditional health care. This Gallup-Healthways project is one endeavor that could bring some fresh, new, integrated insights into consumers’ health perceptions and behaviors, and provide actionable guidance on how to address health outcomes and disparities in our communities.

I’ll report more about the Index in late April when the Index is ‘live’ with the data of over 100,000 Americans.