""We have become very good at engineering physical activity out of our lives, and the price of this is staggering" says Richard J. Jackson, a professor at the University of California Los Angeles School of Public Health, who considers stair-climbing a superior and cheaper alternative to a gym membership.""
This quote is from "If You Build It, They Will Walk: Re-engineering slowness back into building design," in the most recent issue of GOOD Magazine (p.43).
We're on the right track with rebuilding more ways to move into the physical and architectural infrastructures in our lives, but it's an expensive proposition to redesign a room, a building, or a city block to encourage folks to engage in more movement.
Here at Contagion Health, we don't believe you even need stairs to re-engineer your life to fit in more physical activity; you just need some motivation.
Turns out using your existing relationships to re-engineer more physical activity into your life actually works: a challenge from friends, not equipment (or the lack thereof), may be the best way to incentivize you (and me!) to move more.
Current 'disease' and wellness management companies may be in danger of making the same mistake patriarchal medicine has made: assuming they know best what motivates the individual to make a healthier choice.
The incentives they offer us to complete surveys, enter personal biometric data, or fill out a 'health assessment form' appear in our email inboxes with titles like "Win a $10 Starbucks gift card!" or "
We think, quite frankly, that's a load of bull.
Some of us respond well to hierarchy. This means our docs tell us what to do, and because they're docs, we'll do it. We also may work in bigger companies with clearly defined role and responsibility matrices, and we like being told what to do.
Some of us respond well to anarchy. This means when the chips are *really* down, we respond proactively, organizing our own information and medical records. This may surprise people who know us and think we're too abstract to focus. We may work in startups, or as consultants, and we hate being told what to do.
Most of us are probably somewhere in between. The main point here is that people are different. And what motivates different people to do different things is very different.
Sometimes seeing the contagious spread of your actions or opinions on a map motivates us...check out the mentions of #getupandmove on Humana's TPS Report here: http://crumpleitup.com/tps/searches/show/4999.>
While that makes me want to complete a challenge, it might not make you want to complete one. And therein lies the rub...
We think it's the worst kind of hubris for a personal health applications company trumpeting a 'patient focus' to preset incentives for patients.
Who's gonna know what motivates me? My friends and family. They will know I don't care about being Mayor of something on Foursquare, or about leader board stats, but that I like to know where they are and read "tips" about the places they go every day.
Most of us lead pretty stable, white-bread lives. Even if the data about our lives shows we go the same places, eat similar foods, make similar purchases, and tend to not like to take prescription medications, what motivates us to do something doesn't remain static.
Life circumstances, changes in jobs, relationships, all of these things mean that sometimes the $5 an employer wellness program like Accolade, run by MediKeeper, may actually motivate me to click through a custom, employer-designed survey, but sometimes it won't.
Reason? Maybe I'm too busy. Maybe I can't remember my employer email or login info. Maybe it doesn't do much for me and the survey is too long. Maybe I'm chatting with a friend or updating my blog so I hit delete instead.
If a personal health applications company built something that would let my coworkers, friends or family motivate me to fill out that survey and get an incentive that's personally relevant to me (and contextually relevant to the relationship, say they get $5 too) chances are I'd do it AND they'd do it.
Example: Contagion Health builds an employer wellness program based on the Getupandmove.me platform for a small San Francisco YCombinator startup.
The startup is launching a huge new app, guerilla marketing style, at SXSW 2010. We create a few preset options for challenges like "Wear a company logo tattoo on forehead and do 5 jumping jacks" or "Ask biggest web celeb you can find what their most embarrassing moment was and then turn in 5 circles" or "Do 10 cartwheels down the convention center hallways daily, while you film with a Flipvideo camera."
But the most interesting challenges happen when the employees can create custom challenges. I'll give a scenario...
Let's say I know a coworker at this startup (or the founder even) is going to attend SXSWs music festival for the first time, and that they're trying to find new musicians to see. I can offer to do 15 pushups and send them an iTunes gift certificate to download "The Straight and Narrow" by Canadian group "The Deep Dark Woods" if they'll run from the CalTrain next Friday.
We don't know if this will work, but we're betting you have a more realistic idea of the flavor of incentives your friends and family will respond to.
Our goal is to code things that let you do that - without fancy equipment, or space-age 'slow' staircases - and get out of your way.
Designing for movement matters. The good news is that we aren't limited to physical user interfaces to make that happen.
PS - Yeah. We will be doing some crazy #getupandmove challenges at SXSW.
If you'll be there, shoot me a mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. GUAM street team volunteers will get swag, YouTube infamy, and some seriously small calorie burns.