BIG TABLE: The Future of Health and Wellness

Minneapolis, MN / 25 October 2016

This week, we convened our first BIG TABLE in Minneapolis with a group of leaders across the private and public sectors to discuss the future of health and wellness, and the role that brands can play in enabling healthier communities.

The evening was inspired by a handful of projects we’ve had the privilege of working on this year. From developing an internal wellness and nutrition program for Googlers, to the launch of Everytable, a new takeout concept focused on bringing healthy food to food deserts — we’ve been immersed in the opportunities and tensions around enabling the creation of healthier lives and communities. There’s so much to learn, and so much work to be done, that we’re always eager to connect with others who are asking similar questions from different perspectives.

Minneapolis, as a long-standing hub for innovation in the health, wellness, and accessibility space, was a natural home for the conversation. The Twin Cities area is home to major players: Target, major provider of daily needs for communities across America; med tech, services and insurance companies like Medtronic and United Health; the historic Mayo Clinic taking on the most challenging illnesses; and a rising innovation and design scene led by RetraceHealth, City-based initiatives that are pushing the boundaries how we care for ourselves and others, along with many other pioneering brands and innovators. We were honored to sit down with 20 brilliant minds, to break bread, and share what we’re all learning as we work to build healthier communities.

We brought with us our dear friend and inspiration, Carly de Castro — founder of Pressed Juicery, to moderate the discussion. As an entrepreneur and author, she’s on a mission to bring nutritious options to all — starting with over 45 store fronts and new ways of promoting community health in the pipeline.

Here are some of the main themes from last night:

One solution does not fit all.

We’re eager to find the silver bullet to all of our health care needs — and to prescribe it widely. But what works for one individual, family, or community might not work for another — resulting in the need for a multiplicity of solutions, and a cultural openness and engagement to finding what works best for you.

We spoke of how the introduction of community gardens into local Native American reservations has been met with resistance in some cases because of the historical context around forced farming. One community’s new shiny idea could be a source of stress and tension for another. Appreciating that we’re all coming from different places, and that solutions need to meet people where they are at is an important step in creating health and wellness.

Influencing influencers, neighborhood by neighborhood.

We can get apples in corner stores and bike lanes built — but how do we inspire behavior change within communities that need it most? One participant spoke of how she got to the root of how to shift behavior for the better. By identifying ‘centers of trust’ (like leaders in local churches), building one on one relationships with them (not just relying on toolkits but actual conversations), and encouraging them to model the type of change needed in the broader community (weight loss or quitting smoking), there’s a much greater chance fellow community members will follow suit.

Adding compassion to the conversation.

We need to put the human back into human wellness. We cannot address these massive health and wellness issues at 10,000 feet but to consider individuals and communities and to give them the spaces they need to be heard. In doing so, people can be open about what they’re struggling with, which is a key step towards sharing resources and accessing help.

Radicalizing self care.

The harsh truth is that the health issues we’re facing aren’t determined by choice, but by long standing systemic design and discrimination latent in large scale social infrastructure. It’s a daunting realization — but one that wellness educator Christine Petrich exploits to inspire her students. Recognizing that self care is actually an act of radical defiance — she teaches students (including inmates) that one way to fight back against institutional oppression is to take great care of themselves, value their bodies and health, and make the punk rock choice to change behavior and be well.

Creating spaces for social connectedness.

A consistent theme of the evening was social isolation — that health and wellness isn’t just about pumping iron and tracking steps — but about feeling safe, seen, and mentally well as a critical foundation to health and wellness, for individuals and communities. We heard of an awesome project called the Porch Fest (happening across multiple cities in America) where neighborhood artists and leaders host a day of concerts on porches to engage their wider community and bring people together in meaningful ways to foster a sense of care for self and each other.

Thank you to our guests and to our hosts at The Bachelor Farmer:

Alex Merritt / Dessert & Discussion 
Alexa Binns / BordenBinns
Alice E. Pang / enso
Bridget Borden / BordenBinns
Carla Fernandez / enso
Carly de Castro / Pressed Juicery
Christine A. Petrich / Wellness Instructor
Cristin Moran / 3M
Dakota Crow / UnitedHealth Group
Gulgun Kayim / City of Minneapolis, Arts, Culture & the Creative Economy
Jake Heinitz / Greenroom Magazine
Joel Morris / ignite! Innovation
Mary MacCarthy / Glorious Hugs LLC
Ravyn Miller / Medtronic
Robert Quintero / 3M
Sean McNamara / enso
Sebastian Buck / enso
Sonia Eschenauer / Target
Thompson Aderinkomi / RetraceHealth

Florals by A Day in Provence / Photos by 2nd Truth Photography