Health Justice CT

Health Justice CT Blog

Unleashing Social Entrepreneurship to address public health issues

This guest post is written by Supriyo “SB” Chatterjee 

SB Testimony

“SB” testifying on February 27, 2014 in support of SB 23. Photo courtesy of reSET Social Enterprise Trust

There is a growing body of research that points to the impact that social entrepreneurship can have on persistent issues of health equity and disparities in Connecticut.  The Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS) at the University of Connecticut Health Center recently launched ‘The Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities’ to study the subject comprehensively. Resolving the pervasive issues is no easy task – one way would be to unleash Social Enterprises (‘Benefit Corporations’) that can provide a more positive social change.

Social Entrepreneurship is founded on the basic idea of a market-driven & self-sustaining business that delivers innovative solutions to resolve social problems. It does so, by putting ‘purpose before profit’. Its business structure stands in between a non-profit and for-profit entity – bringing in the best of both worlds without dependence on public funds or philanthropy.

With tighter government budgets and diminishing philanthropic grants and contributions, Social Entrepreneurship with its social innovation in business and technology can help mitigate health disparities.  There are a number of things the state can do to support the efforts of social entrepreneurs.

Governor’s Senate Bill 23, An Act Concerning Benefit Corporations and Encouraging Social Enterprise, currently in the Connecticut’s 2014 legislative session provides a way of formalizing and supporting the business structure of Social Enterprises (or ‘Benefit Corporations’). On February 27, 2014 I presented testimony supporting the legislation at a public hearing and shared my thoughts about how Social Enterprises can address the social & economic problems related to public health and healthcare in Connecticut. I was pleased, along with many other advocates to learn on March 11, 2014 that the Commerce Committee voted to move S.B. 23 bill forward taking it one step closer to becoming state law!

Currently, there are business entities like Many Mentors – a non-profit that supports STEM education to middle & high school students that plans to become a ‘Social Enterprise’ once the S.B. 23 legislation is passed. This will allow Many Mentors to scale up their business model and expand their work with greater effectiveness – helping students develop their careers in the health and medical fields.

There are additional areas social entrepreneurs can support health equity.  In community health research, a Social Enterprise’s role as a liaison can provide services that are more community owned and managed – this achieves more effective interventions and positive results for the community.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Minority Health has launched the 2013 National CLAS Standards to help eliminate health disparities and improve health equity and quality. Social Enterprises with its measurable goals of social impact and business networks and cost-effectiveness can help implement and adopt the National CLAS Standards in the health industry. Similarly, the 2010 Affordable Care Act’s provisions for health disparities can also be effectively addressed by Social Entrepreneurship’s innovation and technical prowess.

The Connecticut health ecology consists of three major medical colleges and a large health industry that employs over 200,000 jobs and generates annual revenue of over $140 billion! With Social Enterprises in this environment, it can have a greater social impact and extend health equity.

I welcome your questions and comments below and encourage you to Get Involved! – Contact your Legislator and help bring Social Entrepreneurship into Connecticut.

SBC-Prof1Supriyo “SB” Chatterjee is a Healthcare Technology entrepreneur. He coaches & mentors several startups in Connecticut and is one of the judges of the Hartford SC2 Business Development Contest. Connect with him on Twitter @sbc111 and LinkedIn.

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