Earlier this year,  Prevention Institute (PI) hosted a webinar entitled “How Can We Pay for a Healthy Population?” with four presenters describing promising approaches for generating sustainable and consistent funding for community prevention. In response to the many thought-provoking questions from participants, PI posted a follow-up Q&A on the topic…

PI: What is the potential in scaling up the approach you presented and/or replicating it elsewhere across the country?

Collective Health (CH): We think there is significant potential to scale up and replicate our asthma intervention, within Fresno and in other communities, using Health Impact Bonds or other forms of health-impact investing. At the end of phase one of our Fresno asthma project, we will have validated cost savings using insurance claims data. This will support scale up of the program through shared-savings contracts between payers (insurers, employers, and others that directly benefit from reduced health care costs) and investors (foundations, individuals, and institutions that provide upfront capital for the intervention). While our project focuses on asthma, we see many opportunities to expand the application of health-impact investing to other areas of prevention (e.g., comprehensive care coordination models to reduce avoidable emergency department visits, hospital re-admissions, at-risk maternity, serious mental illness, onsite/telehealth/in-home care).

PI: Do you think the four approaches (PDF download) — Accountable Care Community, Health Impact Bonds, Nonprofit Hospital Community Benefit Funding, Prevention and Wellness Trust — are potentially complementary? If so, how?

CH: Yes, it is worth exploring potential connections among these approaches. For example, could Community Benefit or Wellness Trust dollars be invested into Health Impact Bonds that support evidence-based prevention and generate better health and financial outcomes? In this case, it might be possible for these investments to earn a financial return that could then be re-invested in additional programs and expansion. Another example might be using Health Impact Bonds to finance the initial start-up costs for Accountable Care Communities.

PI: One of the challenges in promoting investment in community prevention is that in moving “upstream” the impacts of interventions become harder to capture (e.g., improving neighborhood air quality has multiple health benefits and cost savings potentially accrue to different health payers and other non-health sectors). How does the approach you discussed deal with this challenge?

CH: A fundamental and sustainable shift in health will only come about if we take on the big issues: the social, environmental and economic systems that influence our health, health behaviors and health choices. Changes at this level will require collective action — and generate collective benefits — across many stakeholders (i.e., all of us). It will require patient capital, long-term investment and a larger pool of investors to spread risk and return. In our white paper (PDF download) referenced in the PI report, we considered a Health Capital Market, where multiple Health Impact Bonds and other investment vehicles would connect a broader set of investors and public and private payers to finance community-wide health improvement and prevention efforts.