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Dr. Elizabeth Markle Explores Community as Medicine in 2023 TEDx Talk

February 2, 2024

Editor’s Note: The following article explores a TEDx Talk given by Dr. Elizabeth Markle, Associate Professor of Community Mental Health, in Denver on  November 5, 2023.  The article focuses on her work as Co-Founder and Executive Director of Open Source Wellness, an Oakland-based national nonprofit dedicated to transforming healthcare.

Do your experiences with healthcare leave you feeling uplifted, honored, empowered, and connected?

Such was the theme of Dr. Elizabeth Markle’s TEDx Talk before an audience of more than 400 health care professionals given at TEDx Cherry Creek Women this past November. She was speaking to many in the audience who have suffered (or love people who have suffered) from the deep failings of our nation’s healthcare system and surrounding social systems.

TEDxCherry Creek Women:
Elizabeth Markle on Community As Medicine

In her talk, Dr. Markle pointed out several glaring structural failings of our healthcare system, and tells the story of Open Source Wellness, the nonprofit she co-founded in 2016 to transform healthcare by leveraging the power of community.

Dr. Markle explained that Open Source Wellness is based in Oakland but works with partners nationwide, including community-based organizations, foundations, corporate and housing partners, and clinical health care providers whose patients struggle with physical and mental health challenges.

“Our mission is to create ‘Community as Medicine’ by partnering with communities and healthcare organizations to deliver joyful, trauma-informed, and culturally relevant programs for health, well-being, and human connection.”

Open Source Wellness has been doing this work in the Bay Area since 2016, refining their model, gathering outcomes data, building partnerships with clinics, health insurers, and governments.

“The TEDx Talk was intended to share with the world what we've learned, amplify our capacity to have impact, and draw together people and organizations who share our mission, values, and commitment to transformation,” Dr. Markle said.

Data from Open Source Wellness points to the success it has had in its mission to create an effective model of Community as a Medicine.

In a rigorous evaluation of its work, Open Source Wellness participants saw a 77% reduction in visits to the emergency room; a 19-point reduction in blood pressure; a 43% decrease in depression and a 41% decrease in anxiety; and a 51% increase in weekly physical activity as well as a 26% increase in fruit and vegetable intake.  Research partnerships with the University of California at San Francisco and Stanford University, along with implementation partnerships with Recipe4Health (Alameda County), are poised to deliver further clinical results and support participants with food insecurity and chronic disease.  

In 2024, Open Source Wellness is working with several large YMCA associations around the country, including YMCA's in Denver, San Diego, Twin Cities (MN), and Seattle to deliver its ‘Community As Medicine’ model.  

“Imagine a world in which no-one felt alone with their health or wellbeing challenges, and diverse communities regardless of privilege had access to culturally relevant, trauma-informed, and joyful support to create wellbeing, together,” exclaimed Dr. Markle.  

For more information about Open Source Wellness, visit https://www.opensourcewellness.org/.

Find more information on the Community Mental Health program in which Dr. Markle visits.

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