Why Talk Healthcare?

Healthcare and all the debates around it are about – healthcare.
Why aren’t we talking about health or wellness?

The basic problem is that too many people need care in the first place. Cost of healthcare didn’t come first. It was the loss of productivity and reduced quality of life.  Millions of people are hampered in their ability to earn a living, care for their children and enjoy their own lives to the fullest because they are ill or afflicted with some health-related condition. Many of these conditions are preventable by the simple addition of regular and consistent physical activity participation.

There’s a big market for health care, there’s a big market for food, snacks, beverages and lifestyles that are sedentary, but there’s not that much money in wellness itself. Fewer than 20 percent of US adults are members of a health club; they spend much more on movies, clothing. . .and of course on fast food. Advertising goes where the profit margins are – and so do the 80% least active and inactive who suffer the consequences of those choices.

Could physical activity tracking devices come to the rescue? The market for consumer self-tracking (the “quantified self” movement) is growing quickly.  People can monitor their activity with tools from Nintendo (WiiFit) and Nike, and count their calories or their overall nutrition with a variety of ad-supported or cheap iPhone apps. They can share their data with others, either striving to succeed in health games (Contagion Health), or collaborating and supporting others in reaching their own goals (CureTogether).

This is a strange viral phenomenon where people market to one another and give value to one another. One of my favorite health apps is Contagion Health’s GetUpandMove — a Twitter and Facebook application.  Jjen McCabe recently explained how Contagion worked at Casual Connect (Seattle 2010). I might offer to run 2 miles if my friend, Sally, will do 50 sit-ups.That kind of attention, far more than a computerized reminder, can motivate people to do the right thing.

The tools and the data are just catalysts for what people can do for themselves and for one another. Much behavior change is driven by people interacting with one another, rather than with a computer. The computer is only the medium that makes the personal interaction easier while focusing it around healthy behavior from exercising more to eating less.

Self-tracking and the associated obsession with one’s own health may sound frivolous and inconsequential, but it is social emotional and factors, not rational risk assessment, that determine so much of our behavior. As users collect data about themselves and share it with others, they will encourage adoption. . .and also encourage one another to engage in healthy behavior.

If you would like to join a conversation around this topic please send us a link to your blog or website, and please comment below.

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