Here’s a riddle that appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal and The New York Times:

It’s the most valuable thing on earth. All the money in the world can’t buy it. Those who have it don’t always appreciate it. Those who’ve lost it will do anything to get it back. What is it?”

Readers of Health Populi should well know the answer to this riddle: it’s health.

And what’s healthymagination?

It’s GE’s new strategy to reinvent itself in health care. The three-legged strategic stool of healthymagination are:

  1. To lower the costs of health care
  2. To increase peoples’ access to health services
  3. To improve the quality of health care.

GE says it will devote $6 billion to this effort, including $2 billion for IT, $3 billion for R&D, and $1 billion for partnerships and content.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: What’s all the fuss about healthymagination? GE must make a bold move when it comes to their once-shining health franchise. The company’s stock price has been badly beaten down, its core businesses dragged down by the financial services arm, and GE’s health unit has had luckluster results in the past two years.

While GE Healthcare’s core businesses of imaging and HIT need turbocharging, what I find very promising in this plan is GE’s plan to leverage NBC Universal’s assets in content, entertainment and media channels, both broadcast and online.

At HIMSS in 2008, I attended a special session with GE Healthcare where the team unveiled a vision for linking imaging, health IT, community health, personalized health, and NBC Universal’s media assets–especially iVillage’s reach into the home and the #1 decision maker of health in the household — women.

At the 2009 HIMSS meeting, GE did not talk about this strategy, which I enthused about last year in Health Populi’s post, GE and NBC Bring Good Things to Health.

GE has announced that iVillage will indeed be an integral part of healthymagination, launching a “Health Is Beautiful” campaign and expanding the community’s health offerings. NBC will also broadcast a new health program on MSNBC hosted by Dr. Nancy Snyderman — perhaps NBC’s version of Oprah’s Dr. Oz.

NBC Universal has a broad range of health assets that will be leveraged in this effort including YourTotalHealth, the Healthbeat blog, NeverSayDiet, Healthvideo, The Biggest Loser, and Oxygen Media’s Dance Your Ass Off, among others.

To attract consumers’ health engagement initially, it is critical to earn trust, and to be authentic; to sustain our engagement over time, entertainment could be the secret in the sauce. NBC Universal and GE have a good shot at making some headway here. The company could play a solid role in the emergence of participatory health: health citizens co-creating health with providers and the larger health community.

How this will bolster the traditional HIT and imaging businesses remains to be seen. But being a trusted stakeholder that can enhance access, deliver on quality, and lower costs could be just what the doctor, and perhaps Wall Street, ordered.