Blog Post

The Transformative Power of Relationships: Community as Medicine

February 15, 2024
Intend Health Strategies Blog
The Transformative Power of Relationships: Community as Medicine

Discover the transformative impact of relationships, community, and connection on health and wellbeing through a captivating conversation with Elizabeth Markle, PhD, co-founder and executive director of Open Source Wellness.

So many individuals and organizations are doing impactful, relational work, and we are pleased to expand our interview series beyond the Intend Health community to explore the work of others who also focus on the foundational power of relationships and human connection as driving forces of better healthcare and health. We were thrilled to welcome Elizabeth Markle as a keynote speaker at the Relational Leadership Convening in October and to delve into the work of Open Source Wellness in this interview.

Watch the video:

Matt Lewis, Narrative Leadership expert and consultant with Intend Health Strategies, and Sarah Smithson of Intend Health spoke with Dr. Markle about Open Source Wellness and the organization's unique approach to health and wellbeing. Together, they explored challenges within the traditional healthcare system, the urgency around addressing social isolation, and Community as Medicine™, Open Source Wellness’ equity-driven group coaching model designed to support people as they learn to make and meet their health and wellbeing goals — while experiencing profound human connection.

Traditional Healthcare and the Unintentional Creation of Shame

Dr. Markle began by addressing the unintentional creation of shame in healthcare settings as a consequence of a system designed to uphold privacy, emphasizing the need for a heart-centered approach to inspire real transformation.

"Just telling people to get better, or do better, or work harder is not the answer that people actually need. To be moved, to create transformation in their health, in their lives, in their workplace. … That's a movement of the heart."

In a challenge to the prevalent notion that more information is the key to health transformation, Dr. Markle emphasized the power of human connection as the driving force behind individuals' desire to be healthier. Delving into the relational aspects of health goals can bring us closer to the deeper motivations that inspire transformative change.

"Lack of information is rarely the bottleneck for most people now around health transformation, and for most people, what they actually care about deep down is other human beings."

Social Isolation: Community as the Cornerstone of Wellbeing

Dr. Markle highlighted the urgent need to address social isolation and its detrimental impact on overall health. Drawing parallels with upstream medicine and its exploration of downstream health consequences, she called for a new conversation about "psychological upstreamism." This concept urges a shift towards addressing the psychological roots of health challenges, particularly the shame that can result in trying to address those challenges in an environment of social disconnection and isolation.

“Social isolation is across the board predictive of human suffering. We haven't necessarily gotten around to really designing our systems as though we know that's true. … It's sort of tossed around as ‘this is a fact so don't be isolated,’ but we haven't really mobilized effectively, at scale, to generate human connectedness.”

As we navigate the complex landscape of healthcare, Dr. Markle and Open Source Wellness advocate for a transformative approach that places community at the forefront of wellbeing. Their commitment to Community as Medicine™ serves as an inspiration, challenging the status quo and fostering a new narrative where meaningful relationships become the cornerstone of a healthier, more connected society.

To learn more about Open Source Wellness, watch Elizabeth Markle's Community as Medicine TEDx Talk.

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Discover the transformative impact of community and connection on health and wellbeing in a conversation with Open Source Wellness cofounder Elizabeth Markle, PhD.

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