Category Archives: Health

Why Coaches Need to Think Longitudinally

Why Coaches Need to Think LongitudinallyImagine 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.

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The Unintended Positive Consequences of Pokémon Go

The Unintended Positive Consequences ofUsually 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

The Diminishing Returns of Education for Health Behavior Change

TheWant 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

Rant: We Need Calories to Live

RANTEvery 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

How Polly Combats Low Health Literacy With Humor and Technology

HowA challenge for public health educators and behavior change experts is helping people who have low levels of health literacy. These people may have difficulty with written communication, understanding medication instructions, or how to care for a chronic condition. Low health literacy is incredibly common, with some groups estimating that as many as 88% of American adults struggle with some aspect of health literacy. Continue reading How Polly Combats Low Health Literacy With Humor and Technology

Forgiveness, Compassion, and Health Behavior Change

Forgiveness, Compassion, and ChangeBack when I used to work on digital health coaching programs, one frequent question we got had to do with whether people self-reported their health data honestly. Could we count on someone with a health issue to tell the truth about lousy eating habits, sedentary lifestyles, or skipping prescriptions? Research suggests that people are at least somewhat truthful when self-reporting their health behaviors, and discrepancies are often the result of comprehension issues rather than deceitful intent. Still, in designing a program that measures “non-healthy” behaviors, there are ways to encourage people to be more truthful. Continue reading Forgiveness, Compassion, and Health Behavior Change

The Best Coaching is Personal

The Best Coaching Is PersonalFirst, a confession: This series of concurrent research findings was surfaced in the most recent issue of the Klick Wire, a weekly mHealth newsletter. That said, the conclusion that Klick drew from these separate news stories–that the most effective behavior change coaching is personal–is one that I have long believed in, and one that formed the basis of the digital health coaching product I worked on when I was with HealthMedia/J&J. Certainly the goals and purpose of behavior change coaching need to be personal for it to be effective. Other personal details–like extending the coaching beyond purely health-related issues–can also help. And now a series of new findings suggests even more importance for personalizing health behavior. Continue reading The Best Coaching is Personal

The Words We Use Affect the Foods We Choose

The Words We Use Affect the Foods We ChooseMarketing in some ways is applying the most appealing words to the truth, with an ultimate goal to sell, not to communicate the literal truth. Unfortunately, when it comes to food and exercise, it can mislead people into thinking they are making better choices than they really are. A recent article in The Washington Post describes how the language we use to talk about food can fool people into thinking that some types of food are universally good to eat, and others universally bad. Continue reading The Words We Use Affect the Foods We Choose

When Is a Reward Coercion? The Case of Workplace Wellness Programs

When Is A RewardGiven my former line of business working on digital wellness programs for employees and health plan members, I’ve tended to have a positive spin on the trend of including these types of programs in the benefits package. While I am not a big fan of financial incentives for health behaviors because they might re-wire motivation, I didn’t necessarily see them as morally ambiguous. That is, I didn’t necessarily see them as morally ambiguous until I read an article that helped me draw a parallel between rewarding wellness programs and research ethics. Continue reading When Is a Reward Coercion? The Case of Workplace Wellness Programs

Sneaky Sleep Thieves: The Physical Environment and Better Sleep

Sneaky Sleep ThievesThe quality of your sleep is the product of a hodgepodge of factors: Mental, physical, emotional, ongoing habits and once-in-a-while behaviors. Your thoughts can keep you awake at night; so can residual negative emotions or stressors from the day; so can feeling physically uncomfortable. Sometimes, sleeping well means experimenting toward exactly the right recipe of ingredients for a good night’s rest. Perhaps the easiest set of factors to fix are the physical. Continue reading Sneaky Sleep Thieves: The Physical Environment and Better Sleep