What’s New in the World of Social Health?

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I like to think of social health as the dimension of well-being that comes from connection and community. Everywhere I look these days, I see actions being taken to improve people’s social health.

That’s because the pandemic has catalyzed efforts to alleviate widespread isolation and loneliness. Below, I share examples of these efforts from the past couple months.

We have a real opportunity to harness this momentum and create lasting change in our society. Now is the time. Let’s do it.

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I’d love to hear from YOU: What are you seeing and doing in the communities you belong to that relates to social health? Let me know in the comments.

What’s been happening?

A lot. Here are three examples.

👉 At the national level, the U.S. Department for Health & Human Services launched a competition to design a technology platform that matches people to social engagement opportunities.

I served on the judging panel and was impressed by the range of innovators who took on the challenge. You can read about the finalists and Phase 1 winners here. The grand prize will be awarded in January, so stay tuned!

👉 The national Coalition to End Social Isolation & Loneliness hosted a two-day action forum that brought together stakeholders from organizations like Meals on Wheels, the AARP Foundation, the CDC, the US Senate and House of Representatives, Facebook, Nextdoor, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Humana. You can watch the recordings here.

On Day 2, I moderated a panel featuring solutions from Lyft, CareMore, Pyx Health, and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. As a big advocate for taking action to improve social health across levels (from individual up to global) and across sectors, I was inspired by this event.

👉 At the state level, the AARP Massachusetts Task Force to End Loneliness & Build Community launched the #ReachOutMA campaign and hosted a summit to share insights from community research we conducted. You can watch the recording (including my presentation) here.

Bravo to these groups and everyone else who is working to make our world a little less lonely and a little more meaningfully connected.

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Dive in deeper with these resources

  1. This toolkit. “It’s the Little Things: A Community Resource for Strengthening Social Connections” shares 100+ recommendations based on conversations with 300+ community organizations. Although designed for MA, the ideas are relevant anywhere.
  2. This report. “Together Apart: Findings from the Social Isolation Impact Summit” summarizes insights from an event hosted by the Milken Institute and the Motion Picture and Television Fund earlier this year.
  3. This journal. The American Society on Aging dedicated their latest volume to the issue of social isolation and loneliness. It includes articles from many great researchers and doers in this space.
  4. These books. I curated a list of books I recommend to learn more about loneliness, connection, and their influence on health. Purchases support local, independent bookstores in the US.
  5. These videos. I’ve been having weekly conversations with researchers, entrepreneurs, and community builders whose work relates to social wellness on Instagram Live. Lots more to come, so make sure you’re following!
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Watch the series here

My latest articles and talks

A big part of my personal mission is communicating the science of connection to non-academics and making the insights actionable in the real world. While a lot of my speaking engagements are not public, here are a couple from the last two weeks that you can tune into:

Last week, Justin Bieber released a new song about his experience with loneliness. Since everyone and their mother sent it to me, I figured I had to write about it. The resulting article includes a bunch of resources for how to reduce loneliness and strengthen social health. You’re welcome 😉

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Read the article here

I also wrote an essay for the Harvard Public Health Magazine alongside my peers and colleagues, sharing our experiences of applying public health training to the pandemic. If you happen to be on campus, keep an eye out for the print version!

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Read the essay here

In case you missed it

I’m thrilled to have been selected as a 2020 Encore Public Voices Fellow! Already I’ve been learning from and with this cohort of people who are changing the conversation around aging, longevity, intergenerational connection, and social justice.

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Learn more about the fellowship here

I’m also grateful to my alma mater, the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, for featuring my recent Scientific American article about loneliness during the pandemic. Check it out!

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See the feature here

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Written by

Writing, speaking, and working on social health. MPH @ Harvard. Say hi @ kasleykillam.com.

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