Social business, health and well-being

Cam Donaldson, Rachel Baker, Francine Cheater, Morag Gillespie, Neil Anthony McHugh, Stephen Sinclair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



The purposes of this paper are twofold: first, to articulate why social business represents an important area of consideration for public policy based on the limits of traditional markets to address the challenges which social businesses, in various forms, are now attempting to meet; and, from this, to outline a framework and set of questions which might then be addressed in the area of 'social business, health and well-being'.


Taking health care as an exemplar, our starting point is that of why markets alone fail to meet the health care needs of members of society in advanced economies, before discussing what this means for social business opportunities and health service provision within publicly-funded health care systems and the research questions this raises. We then discuss whether the same arguments relating to market failure apply to lower-income countries and the research questions that emerge. Finally, we outline a broad framework of determinants of health, which, we argue, could be applied as a conceptual framework for the evaluation of social business in any context (whether in delivery of health care or not) and which could be developed further in future contributions.


Our findings, although they could be contested, are that there are several potential roles for social business in relation to health and wellbeing, but that it is important to generate evidence of success, or otherwise, on outcomes achieved and resource impacts. Such evaluations should incorporate both quantitative and qualitative methods.


The main limitations are the particular health economics and determinants of health frameworks that we have taken as our starting points. These have been used merely as ways of structuring our arguments. Our hopes are that the conclusions arrived at are inclusive of other perspectives and that the framework outlined can be developed based on such perspectives.


There is a role for social business in different health care contexts globally, but also many other (non-health care) social businesses may well have a measureable impact on health and well-being. Research evidence is needed to demonstrate the impact of social business on health and wellbeing.


Our intention and our contribution is to provide a new conceptual interface, that of 'social business as a public health intervention', as well as defining a research agenda that accompanies this.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-35
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Business
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2011


  • social business
  • health
  • well-being
  • public health
  • health economics


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