My friends over at the Humana skunk-works CrumpleItUp (sure hope they aren’t paid in Human stock after yesterday’s rout, 24% drop – OUCH) put up an interesting post that takes a hard look at Wellness programs and why most fail miserably.
Breaking down Wellness efforts into three models; traditional, heavy-handed top-down, specific games to encourage and engage the consumer in Wellness activities and developing games that are first, FUN than inserting Wellness into the fun. If any of you have been to CrumpleItUp, you will know where their hearts and souls lie – let’s make it fun, let’s make it engaging and healthy behavior will be an outcome, naturally.
This is in part why their Freewheel!n effort was such a success. Freewheel!n got folks back on bikes, something they may not have experienced in decades, reconnecting them with their youth and the joy, freedom and simplicity of riding a bike (full disclosure, I am an extremely avid cyclist).
But what may be the real challenge of any Wellness program is how to make them sustainable over the long term to truly impact and change behaviors that most likely evolved and have been in place for years, if not decades. It is not like we just throw a switch and the consumer changes their behavior. Sure, under top-down Wellness programs from say an employer, incentives may be provided that an employee will readily capitalize upon and change behavior in the short-term. But what happens when that program is discontinued, or the employee changes employers? Do they continue those healthy habits without the incentives?
To make Wellness systemic and truly change behaviors we do need to make Wellness fun and as CrumpleItUp articulates in their post, embed that healthy fun behavior into activities that consumers are already doing, maybe giving a nudge in the direction for them to do more. Setting up peer-to-peer (P2P) contests is one approach which CrumpleItUp is doing with Horsepower Challenge.
Recently, Sean Nolan of Microsoft’s HealthVault group wrote a post on what one of their developers did in building a HealthVault app called, Walk Me. Walk Me is similar to the Horsepower Challenge in that it focuses on just walking, but unlike Horsepower, Walk Me looks at bringing together peers based on BMI and age wherein one can see how they compare to others in their physicial activity of simply walking. The BMI and age data is based on their HealthVault profile. As this is completely consumer opt-in there are no privacy issues/concerns, it is a consumer’s choice whether or not to participate.
Taking this all one step further (no pun intended) Wellness programs such as this may also cater to our inner desires to leave this world just a little better off than we found it. As I mentioned to Sean when he informed me of his post, I like it Sean, but why not tie all those steps walked to say some charitable program like FreeRice, donating a grain of rice for each step walked or in a similar vein a penny for each step to an organization like Kiva.org. One could even set-up friendly competitions between groups as to who might ultimately contribute more to such humanitarian relief efforts.
“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.”
– Herman Melville
There is so much more that we, as a wealthy nation, even during these tight times, could be doing at an individual level to improve not only our health, but world health. Time to get walking.