Helping the Great Lakes Bay Region THRIVE

Initiative Aims at Removing Barriers Between Health and Economic Success

The mission of THRIVE, which stands for Transforming Health Regionally in a Vibrant Economy, is to deliver improved health outcomes and sustained economic growth throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Health bodies equal a healthy region.

With the launch of THRIVE a couple of years ago, the Great Lakes Bay Region is exploring the links between physical and economic health and crafting an ongoing series of goals and outcomes to remove the barriers between the two.

Led through a collaboration between the Michigan Health Improvement Alliance Inc. and the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance, the first phase of THRIVE was launched last April from initial discussions that began in 2016. The mission of THRIVE, which stands for Transforming Health Regionally in a Vibrant Economy, is to deliver improved health outcomes and sustained economic growth throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region. THRIVE works with community stakeholders to explore health and the regional economy not as two separate and individual parts but as an interwoven system in which increased well-being leads to economic growth and vice versa.

“THRIVE looks at the interdependency between strong health and a strong economy,” said Beth Roszatycki, CEO of the Michigan Health Improvement Alliance. “You can’t have one without the other.”

As an example, Roszatycki noted that taking measures to reduce workplace absenteeism for health-related reasons ans improving mental health result in cost savings that feul an area’s economic engine.

“When there are more dollars being expensed on health care, there are going to be less dollars available to be invested in infrastructure and community development,” she said. “This coupled with poor health outcomes is a lose-lose scenario for our region.”

The first steps of THRIVE included amassing a pool of data about the region’s residents and the organizations that influence health and well-being. That data was extrapolated to better understand the connection between health and the economy, then target areas were identified that could result in substantive positive change.

Organizers crafted a list of five overarching priority areas of improvement: create job opportunities; improve the health professional pipeline; address social determinants of health; focus on regional attractiveness; and improve preventive care, mental health and well-being.
From those priorities, THRIVE identified a series of objectives – which organizers call portfolio interventions – that outline steps to achieve goals. The first eight of these interventions were launched last year and include:

  • Attract new industries and market for business to relocate to the Great Lakes Bay Region
  • Comprehensive mental health screening, referral and placement
  • Develop a regional health education hub
  • Enhance technology to achieve coordinated health care services
  • Patient safety
  • Prenatal, infant and maternal health
  • Reduce risky behaviors and enhance trauma-informed care
  • A regional opioid strategy

Although there are local resources addressing each of those interventions, THRIVE is seeking to lay out a cohesive strategy using data and analysis that integrates those resources without being limited by scale, sustainable funding, geographic scope and municipal boundaries. One advantage to the THRIVE effort is the strong existing foundation the Great Lakes Bay Region currently possesses – hospitals, medical centers, Veterans Affairs – in terms of health care services, according to Matt Felan, president and CEO of the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance.

“The mission of this alliance is to affect the quality of life and the virality in the Great Lakes Bay Region,” said Felan. “We have so much amazing health care access here to take advantage of and that we can leverage to the best use of our community,”

Relying on those resources, THRIVES’s stakeholder advisory group incorporates the thoughts of community partners from the corporate, business and nonprofit worlds to help drive positive achievements in community health excellence. THRIVE itself is not necessarily an entity, explained Matt Samocki, THRIVE portfolio director. Instead it’s an avenue of advocacy and change, he added.

“it is the information to advance community change,” Samocki said. “The community is saying what we should be focusing on. What we’re doing is trying to put a lens on that and asking, ‘Why is this happening in one place but not another?’”

Although THRIVE intends to see short-, mid- and long-term success, this will be an ongoing concept that will evolve and change as the region changes over the coming decades, because it is the on-the-ground and in-the-trenches community members and stakeholders that are steering THRIVE’s strategy and vision, the unique initiative and approach THRIVE is taking is set up for long-term success, Samocki added.

“THRIVE’s success is dependent upon working with communities to implement, scale and sustain the interventions,” he said. “stakeholder engagement is really what THRIVE is all about.”

For more information on THRIVE, including a schedule of upcoming stakeholder advisory group meeting, visit