Pritpal Tamber

Dr. Pritpal S Tamber is the Co-Founder and CEO of Bridging Health & Community, a Seattle-based nonprofit dedicated to transforming how healthcare works with communities.

Dr. Tamber is the former Physician Editor of TEDMED, TED's dedicated health event. It was in that role that he became convinced that the potential for innovation in health was dwarfed by the size of the challenges.

Dr. Tamber believes that at the heart of the problem is that our current approach to health – deploying technical solutions to bio-medical problems – is not only unsustainable but increasingly failing in a world of circumstance-related chronic conditions.

In response, he founded the Creating Health Collaborative, an international group of practitioners operating from a...

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Speech Topics

Reconceiving the Social Determinants of Health

It is increasingly recognized that behaviors, social factors, and the environment contribute up to 75% to our health. However, healthcare is struggling to effectively translate these ‘social determinants’ into new pathways to help people be healthier. Dr. Tamber shows how seeing social circumstances solely through a biological lens limits not only our ability to influence them but also our opportunity to reconceive the role of the health sector in society. The examples he’ll share illustrate a future for health care that goes beyond ‘community benefit’ and ‘corporate social responsibility’.


The True Opportunity of Value-Based Healthcare 

The proponents of value-based health care describe it as the strategy that will fix the industry. But this inward-looking validation of the much-needed shift away from fee-for-service fails – and radically so – to understand the true opportunity in front of us. Dr. Tamber will illustrate how value-based healthcare offers us the opportunity to ask what health is for, and, based on the answers, reimagine health systems so that they return to being of service to the community, rather than the industry. Doing so requires bringing in the communities the system purports to serve and allowing that process to challenge the unvoiced assumptions that define our current approach to health.


Partnering with Communities

As healthcare reimbursement shifts from fee-for-service to so-called ‘alternate payment models’, it’s seeking to partner – and sometimes share risk – with community-based organizations (CBOs). While logical, this shift runs the dangers of seeing the value of CBOs solely through a bio-medical lens. Such an approach prevents us from understanding that many CBOs create others forms of value, such as trusting relationships and a sense of community, that are essential to community health, even if they’re hard to measure in bio-medicine. Dr. Tamber will share stories of how CBOs (and community residents) create and sustain their broad value, and why health care needs to learn to tread both carefully and intentionally when engaging them.


Population Health versus Health Equity

Most organizations limit their definition of population health to ‘the outcomes experienced by a group of individuals’. By failing to embrace the full definition, which includes ‘the distribution of outcomes within the group’, they render their population health efforts inert before they even start. Truly embracing the full definition forces organizations to face their role in health equity. Dr. Tamber shows how members of the Creating Health Collaborative are acknowledging their (often inadvertent) role in driving health inequity and how they’re changing what they do to embrace true population health.


Fostering Agency to Improve Health

It has been understood for some time that risk factors alone – whether personal, social or environmental – cannot fully explain why someone is healthy or sick. The missing link is whether people have a sense of control over their lives, something that requires individuals and communities to have ‘agency’ – the ability to make purposeful choices. Through the work of the many innovators in his Creating Health Collaborative, Dr. Tamber has gleaned 12 principles for how health systems can intentionally foster a community’s ‘agency’ so as to improve its health. Those same principles also act as a mirror to health care to ask whether it can more purposefully engage communities.


What Workplace Wellness Should Really Be

Employers worried about health care costs and absenteeism continue to embrace wellness programs that purport to reduce the likelihood of sickness. The evidence that they work is mixed, at best. Dr. Tamber will illustrate why just trying to change health-related behavior will always be limited given the day-to-day realities of people’s lives. He’ll share examples of how businesses – including those in the health sector – are embracing the idea that 75% of our health comes from our behaviors, social factors and the environment to change how they contribute to their employees’ health – from sickness-preventing organizations to health-creating ones.


  • Communities Creating Health


  • Registration now open for Healthier Communities Conference, early bird price through Feb. 12
    Registration now open for Healthier Communities Conference, early bird price through Feb. 12
    Feb 12, 2018
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    Registration now open for Healthier Communities Conference, early bird price through Feb. 12
    Feb 12, 2018

    Registration is now open for the 2018 Verdant Healthier Community Conference, a full-day conference on Monday, March 12 at the Lynnwood Convention Center that will bring together national speakers and the Puget Sound region’s leading experts in health, wellness, and community building.

    The public is invited to attend and learn about ways to improve and support the health of our community and your own health as well.

    The fee is $55 per person until Feb. 12. Starting Feb. 13, the fee will go up to $75 per person. The fee includes a healthy breakfast and lunch. Space is limited, so participants are encouraged to register early. Scholarships are available.

    The conference will feature Pritpal Tamber, MD as the keynote speaker. Tamber is the CEO of Bridging Health & Community, will share a radical approach to health equity and the social determinants of health. He will also explain how health systems can intentionally foster and prioritize a community’s resources to support individual control and bring the best solutions.

    “Recognizing that health is local, we are excited to have Dr. Pritpal Tamber as one of our keynote speakers,” Verdant Superintendent Robin Fenn said. “His work in both Seattle and London emphasizes the need for communities to work together to strengthen our current healthcare delivery system and provides real-world ideas for improving the health outcomes of our community’s most vulnerable residents.”

    At the conference, Verdant will also present its community awards to programs and individuals supporting health and wellness in South Snohomish County. In addition, participants can choose four of 12 breakout sessions that will cover topics in three interest tracks: “The Why” — What theories inform effective community health practices?; “The How” — What practices do we implement to improve community health?; and “The Now What?” — How do we advocate and drive policy in community health? The focus will be on health practice, advocacy, policy, and theory.

  • Doctor: Empower people to improve their lives, health will follow
    Doctor: Empower people to improve their lives, health will follow
    Oct 06, 2017
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    Doctor: Empower people to improve their lives, health will follow
    Oct 06, 2017

    Improvement to any community’s standard of health depends on the ability of its people to make meaningful and innovative choices at the grass-roots level, according to the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce Health Care Summit 2017 at the Hilton Greenville.

    The summit, co-presented by Vidant Medical Center and First Citizens Bank, featured Dr. Pritpal S. Tamber, co-founder and CEO of Bridging Health and Community, a Seattle-based nonprofit dedicated to transforming approaches to health care to foster the “agency” of a community — its ability to make purposeful choices.

    “There are lots of well thought out programs and approaches to how to get people to adopt (healthy) behaviors,” Tamber said. “It’s not rocket science. Yet, from the 1990s and on, an upward trajectory has been sustained in extreme obesity and its correlation to diabetes. It seems to me that something is broken.

    ”The physician said that the great challenge faced by communities is to get people to change their lifestyles rather than focus on disease management. About 60 percent of the determinant of life expectancy is based on personal behavior, social practices and the environment, based on research presented in 2002. “We’ve learned that your genes don’t really tell your body how to behave,” Tamber said. “What actually gets written into your body is their relation to the environment. Your genes alone are not as important.”

    Tamber emphasized economic conditions over genetics as a factor in health.“Economic insecurity is incredibly bad for health,” he said. “Poor housing and education, unsafe areas and poor access to food all are bad for people’s health; probably more important considerations than (diet, exercise, stress management or smoking cessation).”

    Tamber said that bridging the health sector and local communities is about facilitating and supporting people’s sense of control. “We believe that this requires them to have agency — the ability to make purposeful choices,” he said. “While it’s true that some people may make choices to purposefully improve their health, people have a fundamentally different, broader understanding of health than (health care providers) have. It’s also about the context in which they live that we don’t understand.

    Tamber offered principles for an approach to health that respond to people’s day-to-day realities and allows a more inclusive and participatory process that fosters community agency to implement and evaluate health solutions.“We must include those who live in a community, those who work there and those who deliver or support services provided there,” he said.Vidant Health CEO Dr. Michael Waldrum, who introduced Tamber, said the importance of Tamber’s message was not lost on his organization and this community.

    “With 30 percent of our population in poverty and bearing a huge burden of disease, the health care institution needs to be at the table, working with our communities and supporting the improvement of education, commerce and health,” Waldrum said. “The missing link is whether people have a sense of control over their lives, something that requires individuals and communities to have agency.”

    Waldrum told Tamber that some of what he presented can make community members, health care providers and community health professionals feel as though their legacy of decades of work to improve regional health has been meaningless or that they “got it wrong.” He asked how Vidant might participate in that work without disenfranchising participants.

    “The annoying answer to the question of how to start is to start,” Tamber said. “I agree that it can seem accusatory to say you’re going to start a new way of doing something. It has to be done slowly and carefully, understanding that you’ll get things wrong. But you have to start.”

    Vidant Medical Center President Brian Floyd told the audience that part of the Vidant mission is to engage the people of eastern North Carolina in a dialogue on how to improve health together, rather than to simply have people go to receive treatment when they are ill or in poor health.

    “The truth be told, most of what we do is rescue people from illness, much of which comes from the social determinants of health, not just patients’ clinical health care,” Floyd said. “We think it’s very important to ... make sure there is a growing body of knowledge and learning so we work, play and behave together in ways that improve our health.”


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