James’ new book – The Community Cure is available this week only for free download (ends on 1/18).
Click Here to grab your copy right now!
In the book, you’ll hear incredible, inspiring stories, learn more about various ways to structure community-based medical/healing groups, research and hard evidence supporting this movement, and ways you can get involved locally – along with much more!
James Maskell: Yeah, great to be here with you and your community, Michael. Thanks for having me.
Michael: [inaudible 00:00:40].
James Maskell: Yeah, I’m at home. Yeah, Sacramento, California. Coming to you from there.
Michael: [inaudible 00:01:10].
James Maskell: No.
Michael: [inaudible 00:01:15].
James Maskell: Yeah. Yeah, Absolutely. I mean it’s actually, now that I’m thinking about it, it’s a really important role that you played in connecting me and when I went down, I interviewed Elizabeth, who is the other founder of Open Source Wellness, and was just really blown away by not just what they were doing but how well she articulated what they were doing. And then I actually thought, okay, if the future of medicine is participatory, I better go and participate in this thing. And I drove down to Oakland and I got involved and it was really spectacular. And ultimately it just formed a perfect sort of segment in my book. And yeah, I mean, I think the future of chronic disease care and ultimately the future of how we keep ourselves independent of the healthcare system and keep ourselves well has a lot to do with community. And that’s really what this book is about. It’s called The Community Cure. Came out yesterday and it’s available free all week to your community. So that’s why I’m here.
Michael: Yeah, hold on. I’m getting messages that they can’t see or hear me right now and I’m trying to figure out why that is. You can see and hear me.
James Maskell: I can hear you perfectly. It’s a bit like, you’re not in motion. It’s frozen.
Michael: The joys of technology.
James Maskell: Now I can see you, but I can’t hear you.
Michael: Okay. Can you hear me now?
James Maskell: Oh, I can hear you.
Michael: And see me. Yeah.
James Maskell: And see you. Still a little slow, but I can hear you fine.
Michael: Okay. “See you now, but can’t hear.” “I hear both of you.” “Okay, see you now.” “There you are.” Okay. It looks like we’re back on.
James Maskell: Great.
Michael: So you came down and you actually participated in one of their events, in one of their weekly meetups?
James Maskell: Yeah. One of their meetups. I mean, the concept was really powerful and I really resonated with it, which is that a lot of doctors give a lifestyle prescription and when you give a pharmaceutical prescription, it’s really made easy for you to fill said prescription. There’s a pharmacy and there’s a pharmacist and there’s a script that you get. And ultimately, that’s what makes taking drugs really easy. But if you get a lifestyle prescription, typically it’s normally the same. There’s something to do with eating right and exercising and taking care of stress and being in a healthy community. It’s not easy at all. In fact, it’s downright hard. And that’s why it doesn’t really happen effectively, consistently.
James Maskell: And so for her, they started Open Source Wellness as a place where doctors could prescribe a wellness prescription and that they wouldn’t just get together and talk about it. They would actually do it 16 weeks in a row, two hours a week. And by the end of it, people have completely transformed. People who were vulnerable and poor and not really having the right support structure, and not only feeling well and supported and have this amazing new community around them, but simultaneously, now ready to educate other people about how to do it.
James Maskell: I thought that was an incredible thing that they had done and fitted into the larger infrastructure of community-based healing that I’ve been talking about on the Functional Forum for six years. I did my TED talk on it four years ago and ultimately, this year really decided to sort of bring together all of those stories and try and push the whole movement forward.
Michael: That’s pretty amazing and I’d like to get into a little bit more about what exactly these community-based wellness meetups and groups could do, but you mentioned Functional Forum. If you found this via my email, I did mention that we met like five years ago now at a Mastermind event and I was already on your email list and followed Functional Forum and Evolution of Medicine and that it was kind of one of my go-tos to kind of learn from the most cutting edge doctors. You host these Functional Forum events all over the country where you guys come into a city and then you’ll have a panel of usually doctors or researchers who live in the area and then people come in. It’s a different topic each time. I learned a ton from those and I saw your talk and community is medicine was something I kind of heard but didn’t really understand until I was involved a couple years ago with the Human Longevity Project film series and we had an entire hour-long episode on community and connection as just as, if not more important than nutrition.
Michael: Everybody, when they found out I was working on that project, they’re like, “You guys are traveling around the world? What are these people eat? What do they eat? What do they eat? What do they do? What are they,” you know? And it wasn’t so much as what they eat or don’t eat, it was how they live. And something that they brought up when we ask them questions all the time was the importance of their family, the importance of their community and the connection and the human connection. And I think that what you mentioned, a doctor gives somebody a prescription, they go get the pill, they take the pill. Easy. It’s also by yourself, whereas this type of model brings an aspect into healing that is even largely ignored within functional medicine circles.
James Maskell: Yeah, well that was a big thing that came up for me, Michael. Functional medicine doctors and practitioners think of themselves as the root cause practitioners. That’s what the soul, you know, if you’re asked to describe what functional medicine is, a lot of times people say root cause. Well, when I found out that loneliness was the biggest driver of all caused mortality, more than food and alcohol and cigarettes, and that ultimately, we had just produced the loneliest generation in history in millennials and Gen Z, where 25% of Gen Z don’t have a single friend, I was like, “Uh-oh, we’re heading down a really crazy path and ultimately we need to find solutions to this.” By the time I had heard those statistics and learned that, I had heard of functional medicine group visits. I’d heard about it in 2013 at a conference that I was speaking at. But when I told doctors about it or encouraged them to do it, it was still not something that I felt that they were sort of ready for.
James Maskell: And ultimately in the last, about a year and a half ago, I was on a bus tour around the country and I had a chance to go to the Cleveland Clinic and see what they were doing there, and in a similar way to Open Source Wellness, they had sort of realized, for a different reason, actually. The reason in the Cleveland Clinic was that they had 2000 people that were on a waiting list and the waiting list was over a year long. They were like, “Well, what are we going to do with these people? We don’t have any more doctors. It’s hard to train and track and find doctors who want to come and work in functional medicine. Why don’t we just do this 10-week group program where we’ll have it run by health coaches, dieticians and PAs? And we’ll make it a prerequisite for every new patient that comes in to the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine.” And guess what? Half the people get so much better. Like, so ridiculous, the improvements, that-
Michael: Probably before they even see doctor, right?
James Maskell: Yeah. Yeah, they don’t even need to see the doctor at all. And so that moment when I saw that, I was like, “Oh man, this is going to happen now. With the Cleveland Clinic stamp of approval, this has the potential, anyway, to be taken up by hospitals and major medical systems and I want to be part of that.” And so I just-
Michael: It’ll save money.
James Maskell: Yeah.
Michael: Because money is, I mean, let’s just be frank here. Money is pretty much the only thing that a lot of those systems care about. Not the doctors themselves. I’m not throwing doctors under the bus, but the people who write the checks, the people who decide what programs are going to take place, they’re bottom line people. They’re money people.
James Maskell: Yeah.
Michael: You know, how is this going to help us money-wise? And chronically sick people, go figure, are expensive to take care of. And surgeries and scans and these hospital stays and all this stuff. And if they could spend a fraction of that to get people into these programs, it seems like even if their motives are not what our motives might be, because it helps people, it’s going to save a ton of money.
James Maskell: Well, yes. It’s interesting you say that. So there are two types of health systems. There are health systems that want to save money and there are health systems that want to make money. And in England, for instance, it’s all saving because it’s all single-payer. But in the US it’s a bit more, it’s not really clear. You have people like Kaiser that maybe want to save, but certainly most hospitals are either for-profit or operate like they are for-profit even if they’re not for-profit and they want to make money. And the really exciting thing about the group visits is that it’s simultaneously way more profitable than one-on-one care, because you’re treating all these people at the same time, and super efficient because you can have one practitioner with a bunch of patients and you can charge insurance and you don’t have to go outside of the system.
James Maskell: It has a unique combination of value where if you want to make money, you can make more money doing it, and if you want to save money, you can save a lot more money. And that’s why part of the big, for us, what I realized, okay, this is going to take off. Because there have been a lot of institutions that are tried to do this kind of care in hospitals and so forth, but typically, once the benefactor money runs out, right, when the philanthropy money runs out, then they sort of shift back to doing heart stents because you can make a lot more money doing heart stents then teaching people avoiding heart disease. So when I realized that the economics worked out like that, I was like, “Okay, I think this is it. This might be the thing that takes this mainstream and gets functional medicine to the most poor and vulnerable in society who really need it.”
Michael: And it does, it makes things accessible. For those who don’t know, like the area here, where Open Source Wellness operates is in Oakland. They could easily be across the bay in San Francisco and they’re not. Their aim was not to provide these services for very wealthy individuals. A lot of the people participating in the Open Source Wellness program are middle- to low-income people and that is one big hurdle in functional medicine, is the cost and the accessibility and the ability for people who don’t have a lot of money to access it because so much of it isn’t covered by insurance a lot of the time and things like that. But this wouldn’t just apply to functional medicine doctors, though. You’re aiming this towards, because any doctor, I mean, at this point, any hospital system, any doctor, functional or not, would benefit from incorporating these type of programs because their patients are going to get better outcomes. It’s a more efficient way to do things.
James Maskell: Well, yeah, let’s just talk about it from the consumer angle, too, because yeah, I mean, ultimately I’ve spent the last six years talking to the doctor community and ultimately there’s a huge potential for doctors and health systems now to implement this. But for your tribe who I’m talking to now, who are just health-seekers, it’s incredibly relevant, too. In the book, I showcase that, although medicine is the place to start this revolution because there’s, you know, unhealthy, lonely people end up in the medical system and there’s already budget kind of assigned to help them with Medicare and Medicaid and health insurance, right? This is the right place for it to start. But if you look at the most exciting models in the book, like Open Source Wellness and others that are similar to it, there’s example examples in the book across disease categories.
James Maskell: So heart disease, autoimmune disease, cancer, that is, peer groups that are completely free and completely detached from the medical system, where groups of people are just getting together voluntarily because they want to have a supportive community. And a great example, and I know this will be close to your heart, Michael, is autoimmune disease, right? So if you have autoimmune disease, it can be a profoundly isolating experience because you can’t have pizza and beer on Friday night and that’s what we built our communities around. And so one of the examples I give in the book are these AIP groups that started popping up. And I know you’re a big batch-cooker, too. So imagine community batch cooking. Groups of AIP people getting together and cooking their meals together super efficiently, putting them in the glass Tupperware and spreading them out. It costs nothing. It actually saves money compared to even cooking at home, and there’s comradery and there’s connection and they’re talking about what practitioners, locally, are good and this is completely outside of the medical system and it’s valuable to everyone and it doesn’t cost anyone anything.
Michael: Yeah. It provides so much there. I know that I would sign up for that here for sure if that exists, because I do spend a lot of time doing that and it is super isolating. We were just talking about that the other night, how in our culture right now as it currently sits, if you don’t go to bars or things like that in the evening, we talked about, why aren’t libraries open at nighttime with this type of thing? You know? Our culture revolves totally around things that a lot of people who are chronically ill or unhealthy, it’s off the table to them. Or if they want to just remain healthy, it’s kind of off the table. It’s an unhealthy social scene. So that would be amazing.
Michael: And there’s no shortage of health coaches for going back to the Open Source Wellness meetups or any group like that, where the doctor gives a lifestyle prescription and then you have these groups that get together and people lead them. You’re talking about health coaches, nutritionists, people like that. Right now there is absolutely no shortage of those people who are looking for things to get involved with. And that’s kind of a large part of our audience, too. We have the health-seekers and the knowledge-seekers. We also have a pretty large base of health coaches, nutritionists and people like that who would probably love to pick up a Tuesday evening group of 20 people in their neighborhood who are looking for guidance on these things, which can turn into individual clients or just helps them reach more people simultaneously and take advantage of their skills. There’s people to man these operations, I guess, is-
James Maskell: Yeah, absolutely. Look, that’s a great point. There’s a huge army of underutilized people. Ultimately, what is a health coach, right? I mean, my feeling is that if there had been nationwide-free education in how the body works and how to keep yourself healthy and what to eat and how to meditate, there probably wouldn’t be as many health coaches because a lot of people were so frustrated with not knowing that, they went to health coaching school to learn that for themselves. And then maybe they turned it into a job and more than likely they just stayed in their day job because it’s not easy to be an entrepreneur, but what I see is that there’s a lot of people who really care about this. Health coaches, peers, even licensed providers and I think that what you’ll see in the next decade is people, maybe who are listening to this today, solving the problem that you just shared. What are fun, healthy things to do for health-seekers at night that don’t involve around destructive behaviors? That’s a really interesting question. I think the people that solve that question could start the really exciting businesses in the future.
Michael: For sure. And community pop-ups of things like this. When we keep talking about these community medicine groups or these meetups or anything like that, can you explain just a little bit of what did you experience when you went to the theirs or what’s like a, for people who are totally unfamiliar to this, what would they experience in something like this? They go, what’d you say?
James Maskell: [crosstalk 00:18:37]-
Michael: 16 weeks or something like that?
James Maskell: Yeah, so Open Source Wellness is 16 weeks. You can come in on the first week of the month, so you could come in on week one or week five or week nine into the group, so it’s kind of a rolling, rolling groups. But in that group, the first thing they did was sort of like a brief centering, introducing people. Everyone had an opportunity to share. There’s probably about 40 people in this one, which is by far the biggest. Most functional medicine group visits would be between eight and let’s say 16. That’s what it is at the Cleveland Clinic. But at Open Source Wellness, there are about 40 people.
James Maskell: So you come in and you sit in a big circle. There was an exercise that everyone had a chance to share something very briefly into the circle. Then there was exercise. So for 25 minutes we did exercise and we played with balls and it felt like improv class and it was fun. It definitely got the heart going, but it wasn’t like push-ups and sit-ups. It wasn’t like a CrossFit workout. It was more like fun and engaging and doing things with a partner-
Michael: Like play.
James Maskell: Play, yeah. Then there was a mindfulness exercise and in that mindfulness exercise something was put into our hands and we all had to sit there and sort of imagine what it was and then feel it and touch it and taste it and smell it even with our eyes closed and see what it was. Eventually, it was a raisin. And it was really an interesting process to sort of turn on the senses. And that was the mindfulness exercise.
James Maskell: And then we ate in community. So now we broke into small groups of six. There were four health coaches that were sort of working with a group that they’d been working with in a small group. And that’s when there was some, there was about an hour for dinner. So I was sitting with Liz and a couple of other people from Kaiser and other groups that were coming to check it out and we were talking about the system. But the people who were actually enrolled in it were with their coach and just talking through issues in small groups and eating a healthy meal. The food had come from this incredible catering company that puts unemployed people to work doing catering from food that is wasted and other places. It was delicious and it was two hours and in that two hours we actually did the healthy behaviors. We experienced all of those healthy behaviors.
James Maskell: And I had a chance to interview a guy about three months later at a conference where Liz was the keynote and this guy, if I told you he looked like your average homeless guy, honestly. Looking at him, just from the way that he was and the way that he, that and he explained so clearly on camera about how he didn’t trust anyone before he started. He had lost all kinds of trust. You know, very vulnerable. And through that 16-week process, he learned how to be healthy, he met other people to be healthy with and he was now on a mission to go and deliver those messages and that education to more and more people.
James Maskell: So there I saw, okay, this could be the backbone of a real exponential revolution, because if you can take people from learner to teacher in 16 weeks, you can really scale up a solution to the problem. And there’s really no barriers to entry. So that was that experience at Open Source Wellness. But over the last year, I interviewed everyone who’s been on the cutting edge of functional medicine or integrated medicine group visits and found some groups that have been going for 25 years that started off as a diabetes group, but after three years, no one had diabetes anymore and they talked about everything. And so now it’s a salsa dancing club [inaudible] or a gardening club and-
Michael: Hey, that sounds more fun.
James Maskell: … they still meet every week. They still meet every week and they still do healthy behaviors in a group. You have the Cleveland Clinic one where you have these 10-week groups. You have, you know, Jim Gordon, dude, you’ll love this. Jim Gordon takes groups of people to Kosovo and Gaza and, after the hurricane, to Puerto Rico and does mindfulness-based stress reduction groups and has an 80% reduction in PTSD. So, you know-
Michael: He goes to work with the people who are living there, post-traumatic event, you mean?
James Maskell: Exactly, yeah.
James Maskell: And he trains peers. So he’s not even training all health professionals. He’s training teachers and policemen and other people. And in these 11 weeks of mindfulness-based stress reduction, people have really transformative effects because they’re able to process their shit in a group. And it’s really exciting.
Michael: I’m going to want to talk to him. I don’t know who that is.
James Maskell: Yeah, he’s kind of like the old school. He started the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in DC and he’s like the old school mindfulness meditation guy. He’s been doing it since the 60s. Really famous psychiatrist, Jim Gordon.
James Maskell: Yeah. So I was just able to bring together all these stories and my goal with the book is really to galvanize anyone who reads it to want to either be in a group or to start a group. And ultimately one of the reasons why I made this book free is so that we could really try and make it easy for anyone who’s listening to download it, to read it, to get inspired and to send it on to anyone and everyone that needs to listen to this. I mean, one of the things I think could be really powerful is a book club. A lot of people do book clubs, right? So imagine starting something as a healthy book club. You read a healthy book every month and you talk about what you learn. The barriers to entry to start something like that in every library around the world or around the country, the barriers are really zero with Eventbrite and with Meetup.com and with all the tools like Facebook that we have to bring people together. And I’m super excited off the back of this book to be able to inspire people to lead those groups and facilitate a transformative change in their community.
Michael: So you don’t have to be a doctor or a health coach to kind of form one of these. You just…
James Maskell: No.
Michael: There’s models they can follow to create it. So the book, I don’t expect you to explain an entire book in a short webinar, but in the book, you’re kind of laying out the problems that are being faced that here’s the solution and here’s some things that are being done and here’s ways to get started and get involved. Is that kind of-
James Maskell: Yeah, it’s kind of a hero’s journey. So it’s like telling stories of people [inaudible 00:25:34]. We talk about the doubts, right? We talk about why do people think this is a bad idea. I mean, let’s face it, a lot of people have had traumatic experiences with groups. Think about the groups that you were forced to be in. Your family, your school, your first job. I’m sure a lot of people have trauma from those situations and so being in a group isn’t necessarily something that everyone thinks they want. But we talk about those issues and we talk about, this is a very different type of group. This is groups of people coming together with a shared intention to heal and be well. And so there’s real power there.
James Maskell: Yeah. And then in chapter six we really get into, well, in chapter five we really get into showcasing the transformation of industries via groups. And then in chapter six we really give you a step-by-step guide on how to start a group and what are the structures and what’s the intention that you can come together with and different ways of actually the sort of day-to-day organizing of putting together a group and some resources. And then in chapter seven we really look to the future and talk about the future of virtual groups. We talk about, we’ve seen some really interesting models where you have group medical visits and then your vitals are being tracked between visits by a health coach in clinics. So this sort of combination of technology and groups.
James Maskell: And ultimately the last chapter is sort of my thesis, having worked in this world 14 years and learned about functional medicine and digital marketing and learned about how care can be ordered, and also coming at it from the position of a health economist, which is really what I am and sort of how I see things. The last chapter is really about what is a vision for a completely integrated health system where we focus chronic disease care on health creation through these groups and ultimately how groups and functional medicine and allopathic medicine and all kinds of other care can be ordered in a way that will create the goal that we’re looking for, which is maximum health at minimum cost.
James Maskell: And the reason why I’m excited to share it this year is because, obviously, America, this year, is going to make a decision about healthcare and how healthcare is going to get paid for. Is it going to be Bernie and Medicare for all or is it going to be Trump and the market? And ultimately, one of the best books that I read this year is called The Third Pillar. And it essentially says the only reason why we think that governments or the market are the solution is because, or are the only solutions, is because over the last 40 years, but really 200 [crosstalk 00:28:28]-
Michael: Degradation of community.
James Maskell: … of community, exactly. And ultimately, this third pillar, community, is something that we can all take on to execute on independent of what happens in the election. And I wanted to really give people something on that because I know what a sort of a traumatic experience it can be, just following the news, and to give people some hope and some opportunity to move forward without having to wait for anyone’s permission.
Michael: That’s one thing that won’t be taking place at any of these groups. It will not be a group news TV watching event. But it fits into either model, though. It really could fit in a system like Canada’s, which is more closer to a single payer, or the US, which is a market, I mean, it can fit into any model and it would, like you said at the beginning, reduce costs or improve profits. There’s no hangup here. There’s no catch. And I loved what you said on what they do at Open Source Wellness, which could be duplicated elsewhere, is collaborating with other, like the hiring unemployed or homeless people to help out or bringing in catered food from, I know there’s a pop-up here that’s around the country now called Imperfect Produce which-
James Maskell: Oh yeah, I love that.
Michael: It’s a produce box where you get the ugly apples and the whatever and it’s a discounted price or get, talk to grocery stores and they can’t sell certain things at certain times, but it’s totally fine to eat, but they have the rule. Ways to reduce waste and produce more inclusion and to collaborate with other organizations locally that are doing really positive things. I think that the possibilities there are endless and that community and connection is, chronic disease on its own is so isolating. Outside of just I can’t go to the bar or I can’t eat whatever food, it’s really isolating emotionally, it’s really isolating mentally and then it snowballs on itself. And I just really think this is brilliant. What’s next for you? So you wrote this book and you’re putting this book out there because you’re trying to raise awareness about all of this. How do you see yourself and involved in this and what’s your personal goals? The book is just to start. What’s the goal here?
James Maskell: So if I look back, the last decade for me, Michael, at the beginning of the decade I was a supplement sales rep who had spent the last five years working in the functional integrative medicine space. I had a good idea of what was going on. And over the last 10 years, I would say that what I’ve done in that space is to be able to make it easy for doctors and health practitioners to leave conventional medicine and start functional medicine practices, work as a team and so forth. And we’ve done some innovation in the first inklings of what’s going to happen in the next 10 years, which is, this 10 years for me, this decade is really about large scale implementation of functional medicine inside health systems. And so in the book you’ll see that there’s a place, I think in chapter six, where I say, “Hey, if you’re reading this and you’re an administrator in a hospital, get in touch and we’ll teach you how to send this up the flagpole to the decision makers at the top and implement functional medicine inside your health system.”
James Maskell: Right now, I’m in talks already off the back of the book with a health system. I can’t say the name yet because I’m under NDA, but four states, 31 hospitals, 300 clinics, 30,000 employees. And it’s a Christian group and so they have sort of a mandate to be able to take care of poor people and bring people together and their brand is very much bringing people together, but they never done a group ever. And especially not an empowerment group like this. So it’s about making big sales this decade, selling these concepts into the NHS or Health Canada or big systems inside America. And then it’s also looking at all kinds of other ways to raise awareness. And that’s through startups. I’m advising a few startups that are doing interesting things with group visits. And I’m also building my own stuff and looking to continue the process of becoming a good entrepreneur and solving problems. So just really coming at it from all angles and I learned a lot about myself in the last 10 years and I think that I’m going to be exponentially more effective in this next 10 years because I know what my strengths are and I can play to those strengths in helping to make things happen.
Michael: That’s a pretty solid answer. Yeah. And I’ve watched the, it’s these things they tend to, you know. It’s this person’s trying it, it’s small, it’s little, it’s this is kind of growing a little, and then there seems to be a critical mass with ideas like this where it hits. And I’ve read Gladwell’s book – what is that, Tipping Point? – where it’s like a certain percentage of, once a certain percentage of people believe something or are doing something, we see these massive paradigm-shifting events.
Michael: And when I saw you were into this now with the community care and where this, the possibility of it, because that’s what Rebel Health Tribe is on a scale. That’s what a lot of these people in our industry that have these audiences in these communities, the Facebook groups, these types of things, people are looking for community. They’re looking to connect and now online is much different than in person. There’s benefits to online. You can reach large amounts of people, but there’s something, like you said, sitting down with a health coach and having dinner with six people and talking in person face-to-face. And I think the people are there that are looking for this and need it. The need is there from the structural organizational medical system end and I think everybody wins.
Michael: And I really encourage everyone, there’s a link at the top of the chat. I’m not sure how you see it because I think I see things a little differently than the participants, but there’s a pasted link at the top of the chat that you can click and you can download a free copy of the book right now. And it covers everything that he just explained. And it’s, I’ve looked through. I’ve probably read about half the actual words in it, but I’ve gone through it, because I just got a two days ago, and it’s really cool.
Michael: The stories are cool. It’s just something that I think is the time has come for it. And I hope to help get involved and spread word around it and participate locally. I know the people over there in Oakland and we’ve had a bit of a rough ride the few months since we’ve been up here with Mira’s health and the moving and stuff like that. So I haven’t really had a chance to get involved, but I plan on going down there and checking that out. Maybe I’ll do some live videos from there for our audience just to kind of show them what’s going on. But I really think this is a good idea. So they can go there, they can get the book. What is your website?
James Maskell: Yeah, well, you can click on that link, but eventually it’ll take you to The Community Cure and that’s where you can get the book for free. So that’s the best place to go. I want to leave with one story, Michael, that’s actually not in the book. I think it will inspire everyone to see what’s possible.
James Maskell: There is a town near where I grew up in England called From. Between Frome and a couple of villages near it, it’s about 115,000 people that are served by this group of medical practices. And a couple of years ago they decided that they were going to treat loneliness. They were going to do something about loneliness.
James Maskell: So what they did is for the first year they hired one person and that person’s goal was to track every group that existed in the community. Bereavement group, wood shop group, fitness group, walking group, church group, everything. And they came up at the end of six months with about 2000 groups that were going on. Some big, some small, all kinds of groups. They whittled that down to 400. Really stable, every week, good community, have a fixed place, not going anywhere, well-organized. And they put those 400 onto a website and they hired these health coaches in the medical practices and if anyone said that they felt lonely as they were seeing people, they would send people to the health coach and the health coach would help people connect with two or three different groups and see how they liked it and connect into these groups and show them when and where they were during the week and how to get involved.
James Maskell: So that was incredible by itself. But then, the kicker here, which I think is really exciting, and just think about this – Michael, I know you’ll love this – through the context of running for office, right? Think about they recruited a thousand people out of 115,000 people. They recruited a thousand people who they call community connectors. And you know who these people are because they were a green lanyard and they have a green button that they wear around and these are police officers and hairdressers and Uber drivers and just regular people in the community and they wear this green lanyard and their job is not to ever give anyone advice. Their job is to send them either to the website or to one of these five, they call talking cafes, which are cafes in the town that, for certain number of hours every day, have office hours where you can go and meet with one of those health coaches.
James Maskell: The program has been so successful that they have seen a 20% drop in emergency room visits, which is a ridiculous cost saving-
James Maskell: … because that’s where the majority of the cost, I mean, it easily pays for the health coaches. Super easily pays for the health coaches. But it’s saving, because they’re in their single-payer system where they’re trying to save money. Not only that, the results of that have been so significant, not just in the health of the population, but Frome actually is a town or that area in England has its own political party with one seat. That town. And they were able to, it’s called flatpack democracy. You can Google it and read about it, but ultimately, [inaudible] creating that sense of community spirit allowed them to do something very, very interesting politically, too.
James Maskell: And so I know there’s a lot of people who are sitting and wanting to be part of a solution wherever they live, and I thought that was just a super interesting thing. You can Google it. If you just Google Frome, F-R-O-M-E, loneliness. You can probably see like a video there. I know Court’s recently reported on it here. The Guardian’s reported on it before. I see Paula asks how the program I’m describing was funded. It was a grant for that one person who put together the website. The doctor in question got a funding grant. So they actually won an innovation competition and one of the things I did recently in the UK was going to talk about how to scale up that program and how to take things across in different ways.
James Maskell: So I just wanted to share that because if you read anything about it, you’ll really get fired up to see what happens when you get tons of people in groups and you get everyone in a group and you solve loneliness and the effects are profound on health, but the effects can even filter down to politics and community and connection.
Michael: That’s pretty impressive. Are people at the NHS taking note of that over there?
James Maskell: Yeah. I mean, it certainly is, you know, people are, to a certain degree, taking note. And I went and did an event called The Community Cure for the NHS at one of our Functional Forum meetup groups over there in December and sort of showcased my book and the solutions in it and I was like, “Could you ever see something like this happening in America? I mean, in the UK? Could this even work in the NHS?” And then I showed the Frome video, there’s this awesome four minute video, and everyone was just like, “Oh, yeah. Look, there it is, already working.” And those guys in Frome don’t even know about functional medicine. What they do know about is about connecting people to community. And now they do know about functional medicine because I’m friends with the woman and they’re starting to think about what it could even jumpstart those communities.
James Maskell: So I just wanted to give everyone a little bit of a taste of that because that could happen in any town in the world. There’s no reason that can’t happen.
Michael: Yeah. There’s no reason.
James Maskell: [crosstalk] people to come together and to work together to solve the problem. And ultimately if you’re going to do stuff in your evenings sober, why not do that?
Michael: That’s amazing. I have one, too, to share, then we can head out.
James Maskell: Amazing.
Michael: But I am reading a book right now called The Field, which has nothing to do with any of this. And it’s about quantum physics and the zero point field and things like our ability to, research on things that would be considered parapsychology or, you know, woo. And a page I read last night, right before I went to bed and I thought I should remember this for tomorrow’s webinar, there was a community of Italian immigrants somewhere in the Northeast in the United States. And I don’t remember which state it was, but it was Pennsylvania-
James Maskell: Was it Pennsylvania? Yeah.
James Maskell: Was it Roseto, Pennsylvania?
Michael: Yeah, it’s Roseto, Pennsylvania. And it was all Italian immigrants when they first moved there, the entire town. It was basically like they took a community from Italy and transplanted it to this town in Pennsylvania and everything stayed exactly how it was. And the community was close-knit. It was tight. And then it’s about two pages of description. So it goes into all these details about how close these people were and how powerful their community network was.
Michael: And then, this is taking a different angle on it, on more explaining the why they might be so healthy, be it based on the community, due to subconscious connections and zero point field quantum mechanics and all this crazy stuff. But aside from all of that, which isn’t relevant here, is that when this community dispersed, when the younger people grew up and they became more of products of this society that we live in and they left the town and new people came in and this got disrupted, these remarkable health statistics of like 50% less heart attacks, 50% less cancer, all these types of things started to fade in a linear way as the community was lost and as that connection was lost.
Michael: So obviously this is a pretty well-known case if you knew the name of the town and the place, but I was reading that in a book completely unrelated to functional medicine or group medicine or anything yesterday and I thought this plays a role. Just the act of being in community itself, regardless of what they’re learning or doing or eating or whatever, is its own health practice. So it’s really multiplier then. It’s really a multiplier.
James Maskell: What you’ll see in the book, Michael, and you’re so right on that topic there, is that community is not only healthy in itself, which it definitely is, and loneliness affects us all really, really strongly and I talk about that in the book, but ultimately it also provides the context to do the healthy behaviors that we know that we’re meant to do consistently. And so that’s where you really get this synergistic effect, because it’s not just the effect of solving the loneliness, it’s the effect of then in community doing healthy behaviors. I mean, look at Qi Gong. You’ve all seen the videos of like a thousand Chinese people doing Qi Gong together every morning. This is the kind of a thing that we need to bring to America and it’ll probably have its own American slant and it’ll maybe have its own community slant, but we all know the things that are healthy and finding-
Michael: Hashtag Qi Gong in America.
James Maskell: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Getting a bunch of people together to do those healthy things is something that is very possible. And also look at things like this. I mean, we’re using online tools to create offline connections. And I’ve got a challenge for you, Michael. Whatever you end up doing this year in the Rebel Health Tribe, my challenge to you is to introduce people who are part of the Rebel Health Tribe to each other. I think that’s really the most powerful thing that could happen. And ultimately when people get together and connect, all kinds of creativity comes from that. And so my challenge to you in 2010 and for this next decade is as you grow your tribe, try and find ways for them to connect locally with each other. And as the tribe grows, there’s more and more people around and you can spark a lot of good from those kinds of connections.
Michael: Well, I just wrote that down, so the challenge is accepted. And I’m working on another platform which Rebel Health Tribe folks kind of had dripped at them a little bit. There’s been some teaser, sneaky previews, but I’m working on a separate platform as well that does have an in-person component to it for meetups and you just gave me about a million different ideas on how I could weave that into this too.
James Maskell: Amazing.
Michael: So yeah, let’s hang out, folks. In real life. It’s always so fun. When you go somewhere, to a conference or a convention or something or Paleo Effects or one of those things. when I spoke there, there was a couple of dozen of our Rebel Health Tribe people that were there and we ended up, a lot of us met up for lunch. And it’s so fun when that happens and I’m sure you encounter that when you go to workshops or conventions or conferences and it brings it to a new level.
Michael: So challenge is accepted. I’ll try to think of some creative ways. I’ll finish reading the book because that’s cheating. I will get some ideas from there and then try to weave them into what we’re doing here because I think it’d be fun. So James, I know you’re busy this week.
James Maskell: [inaudible 00:46:41].
Michael: The book is getting out all over the place and you’ve got emails and phone calls and things going on and making this happen, so I appreciate you taking the time to share these stories and share kind of your passion behind this, which I think this is huge. I really do. I think it’s a way forward. It’s a way that solves so many problems without any real drawbacks. And thanks for all that you’ve put into this book and the research and the travel and the interviews. I know what goes into things like this behind the scenes. It doesn’t just pop out as this pretty piece of literature. I can assure you, everyone, and it’s a lot of work. So thanks for doing that. Thanks for taking the time here and I’m sure we’ll be connecting soon on who knows what, but it’s going to be fun to watch this grow, so thank you.
James Maskell: Thanks, Michael.
Michael: All right, see you later, everyone. We’re going to post this up on the site in a couple of days. You’ll be able to catch the recording. Again, the link is there for the book. That’s in the email too, and we’ll be sending that out again as well. So thanks everyone for attending, and this was a lot of fun. So keep an eye on this, learn more, see how you can get involved, and let’s make this happen.