A question I’ve been thinking about more recently is, what makes health behavior change so special? And surprisingly enough for someone who’s spent over a decade focusing on health behavior change, I think the answer is: It’s not. The more I explore other behavior change challenges, the more I see that designing for health isn’t really different from other types of behavior change interventions. Continue reading What’s Different About Designing For Health?
I got interested in genetic testing for fitness a while back, but haven’t pulled the trigger on anything yet (besides 23 and Me, a few years ago before they got their hands slapped by the FDA). There’s a part of me that imagines a dream future where a simple genetic test can unlock my ideal diet and exercise regimens and then I follow them and become a fitness model. Yeah, I know that’s not going to happen. In the meantime, I’ve explored a couple of free or low-cost options to see how close reality might be to the dream. Continue reading How Is a Good Insight Like a Patent?
I believe in personalization.
Evidence has firmly established that more personalized behavior change programs are more effective. People perceive personalized information as more relevant, are more likely to remember it, and more likely to actually make changes as a result of it. That’s the entire premise that the startup I worked for, HealthMedia, was founded against, and the validity of the approach is why Johnson & Johnson acquired us and made that personalized behavior change capability part of their enterprise offerings. Continue reading Personalization: Good for Health Interventions, Maybe Not for Mattresses
Did you know that visualizing yourself differently can help you make health changes now? Depending on what you’re trying to change, either imagining a better future you or a worse one could provide the psychological and physiological fuel for transformation. For people looking to lose weight and improve lifestyle behaviors, picturing a worst place scenario future self might help. If you’re struggling instead with chronic pain, your solution may be to envision a better future you. Continue reading Imagining Your Future Self Can Help You Be Healthier Now
If you want to hear about some bad bedside manner, I highly recommend a recent episode (“Goo”) of the podcast Two Dope Queens, starring Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson. Williams found a lump in her breast and made an appointment to get an ultrasound to find out what it was. She talks about her experience with the ultrasound and subsequent biopsy, and highlights a couple of unfortunately all-too-common negative patient experiences along the way. I’d chalk these experiences up to at least two dynamics: Lack of empathy, and lack of communication. Continue reading “Narrate This Like This Is a Ken Burns Documentary”: 2 Dope Queens on Patient Care
Imagine it’s your first visit to a dentist, doctor, or health coach. They will usually start with a basic exam to establish your level of health. That begins the discussion of any changes or improvements you might want to make. Normally in the formal care system, that first visit is accompanied by the transfer of your historical records from previous providers so the new one can tell not just your current state, but your trajectory. That’s not necessarily so with coaches, and definitely not so with digital coaches. But that history is so important.
Usually we associate playing video games with being sedentary, but that’s not the case here. Since Pokémon Go was released last week (and became an instant hit), a number of people have observed that players seem to be getting more exercise than usual while playing the game. The game uses geolocation to plant characters in real world locations, where players can detect and capture them with the phone. Being successful at the game requires physically navigating the world. Continue reading The Unintended Positive Consequences of Pokémon Go
Want someone to quit tobacco? Chances are your persuasive tactics to get them to stop smoking will include some cold hard facts about the damage that cigarettes can cause to your lungs and heart. Maybe you’ll use some photos that show the aging effects of smoking on skin and teeth. Or perhaps you can share statistics around the rates of disease for people who smoke compared to people who don’t. These approaches may make intuitive sense, but they rarely work to get someone to quit smoking. Knowledge alone doesn’t change behavior. Continue reading The Diminishing Returns of Education for Health Behavior Change
Every once in a while, I see a social media post or weight loss tool that exploits the concept of how much exercise is needed to burn off the calories in different foods. The premise makes sense on the surface: If you know it will take two hours of jogging to counteract the donut you ate, maybe you’ll think twice before choosing breakfast pastry. However, I submit that the premise is actually deeply flawed and can lead to disordered thinking about food. We need calories to live. Continue reading Rant: We Need Calories to Live