Cyclist on a rural road
Cyclist on a rural road
Bold Ideas: Enhancing Health and Wellness


Co-leads: John Ayanian (Director, Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation) and Patricia Hurn (Dean, School of Nursing)

Group Members: F. DuBois Bowman (School of Public Health), Paul Clyde (Ross School of Business), Karen Farris (College of Pharmacy), Margherita Fontana (School of Dentistry), Donna Fry (UM-Flint College of Health Sciences), John Marshall (Stamps School of Art and Design), Mary-Ann Mycek (College of Engineering), Brahmajee Nallamothu (Michigan Medicine), Feranmi Okanlami (Michigan Medicine), Lisa Prosser (Michigan Medicine), Leah Robinson (School of Kinesiology)

Health care is broken for so many. How do we advance health and wellness among all areas of society?

The Challenge

The challenges to promote and maintain ideal health and wellness in our society are many, including health disparities; the high cost of and financially gated access to our current health care system; a growing fault line in mental health, which threatens our society’s youngest members; and a growing uncertainty around how well our historically trusted institutions promote health and wellness. However, we believe that these challenges have answers, some of which are uniquely available in the power of our University of Michigan.

How important is the societal challenge of health and wellness to you?

The Vision

Our overarching belief for the future of U.S. and global health, health care, and well-being is that we must increasingly focus on the prevention of illness. First, we envision a world in which health and wellness are the rights of all individuals, more than just freedom from disease. Second, health equity for all must be a priority, regardless of zip code, socioeconomic determinants, and demographic or environmental origin. Third, all people deserve a strong, health-based education and access to accurate health information, beginning at young ages. The resulting knowledge will empower each individual to grasp the fundamentals of being and living well in a challenging and changing world. Lastly, we envision the continued movement of health care out from the present reliance on compartmentalized hospitals and disconnected care to the powerful community of families, partners, and shared experiences.

How well does this vision resonate with you?

The Initial Bold Ideas


Fostering mental health and well-being for youth and young adults

America’s youth are experiencing a devastating mental health epidemic. The challenges are real and widespread—but also treatable and highly preventable. We aim to amplify, expand, and develop new U-M efforts to destigmatize and enhance mental health and well-being in childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. 

Our approach will be anchored by the innovative Maize Scholars Program, a diverse community of student and faculty scholars recruited to Michigan specifically to tackle the complex challenge of advancing mental health and well-being at the University of Michigan and beyond. Prospective students would apply to the Scholars Program, which would cover their educational costs, and they would participate in a core longitudinal curriculum that synthesizes their diverse backgrounds toward a unified purpose. Scholars will be dedicated to building upon foundational work at U-M and translating it to community impact. The program will develop a group of leaders that understands the importance of mental health and well-being from multiple angles and can connect it to their specific areas of expertise, such as law, public policy, medicine, public health, business, social sciences, humanities, and the arts. 

Through creative, multidisciplinary partnerships with community organizations, elementary and secondary schools, and campus communities, the ever-expanding cohort will infuse the community with individuals dedicated to mental health in their areas of expertise: building upon existing programs, developing new approaches, and advancing this impact through the next career stage, within and beyond U-M.


Healthy communities: pursuing health equity through prevention

Our vision is to coalesce a community of experts and partners to improve health outcomes and decrease preventable deaths, beginning in high-impact regions of Michigan, such as Detroit, Flint, Dearborn, or rural Michigan. 

A health-equity approach through prevention would recruit new talent to U-M, strengthen our research programs, spur innovation, and enable students the opportunity to be part of a major movement to decrease health disparities. 

Initially, we will identify select cities/counties in Michigan and pursue efforts to bring mortality rates and instances of preventable disease to or below statewide averages. Ultimately, we aim to reduce the rates to the lowest in the United States and develop a model that can be instituted in other cities and regions. As part of this effort, we will develop, support, and sustain a diverse health-related workforce.  

This is a unique opportunity to integrate the cultural, social, political, economic, and human dimensions of health under one umbrella for a streamlined model. We will engage students, staff, researchers, and faculty to directly address and deliver high-impact interventions and services to reduce the burden of preventable death and disease in Michigan’s most impacted communities. The work will focus on health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and the physical environment to meaningfully impact health policy, health factors, and health outcomes, yielding a real and lasting impact on health and wellness.


An innovation destination for future technologies

We have a unique opportunity to make Michigan an innovation destination for entrepreneurial faculty, students, and staff who seek to pursue commercialization efforts. Our institution already possesses a robust innovation ecosystem and mechanisms to accelerate these technologies to market. With philanthropic support, we can improve our throughput, consider new models for venture funding, and increase opportunities for our investigators and innovators to access invaluable networks of business leadership and U-M alumni to help their ventures succeed. The University of Michigan can become a visible player for venture capital and business leaders looking for their next opportunity to support and invest in healthcare technology development and innovation. 

Furthermore, a coordinated and abundantly resourced university-wide effort has the potential to positively impact all of the major health challenges we seek to address: mental health, prevention, equity, and better access for underserved communities. These investments also would lead to better cost/affordability and improved efficiencies for all, and will spur regional (statewide) economic development with new companies, technologies, and job creation. Ultimately, this may become a self-sustaining model funded by university equity and royalties from these commercialized technologies.

Which of the bold ideas in this section spoke to you the most, and why?

Which do you think is least important for us to pursue, and why?

Are there other bold ideas related to this concept that we are missing?

Who are thought leaders in your network that might be interested in providing insights or feedback on this concept?