The Evolution of Health and Wellness Programs
Health and wellness programs have been a part of the U.S. culture for decades. Throughout the years, studies have spurred new developments, technologies and approaches to managing lifestyle and health habits. At the outset, programs focused on diet and nutrition. Programs such as Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, and Slim-Fast first introduced notable concepts used by health and wellness programs today, including point systems to quantify health actions as well as logging systems to track progress.
With the next iteration focusing on steps, we began to see a development and commercial growth in wearables and apps such as Jawbone, Garmin, Fitbit, and Runkeeper. The goal of many of these programs at first was to hit 10,000 steps per day, no matter the demographic or socioeconomic factors of participants. But as the research evolved, so did the programs focusing on personalized physical activity, encouraging participants to stay active or hit a heart-rate zone within a period of time on their biometrics and current habits. And while these programs introduced new user-friendly features like digital auto tracking and heart-rate monitoring, they were challenged by low usage and participation rates. Novel programs began to feature capabilities to help increase participation, including alerts, reminders, incentives and social elements through group challenges and messaging.
Since then, we have seen a more holistic approach to health and wellness programs, with mindfulness taking the stage as studies delved into mental health issues including stress, depression and suicide. Again, we saw development in commercial programs and apps like Headspace, Calm, and Simple Habit that help participants combat anxiety, meditate, and hone their focus. These types of programs broadened health and wellness technology and introduced features to mobile and wearable devices that were previously available only through a medical device, like measuring breath, sleep cycles, stress levels and VO2 max.
Recently, artificial intelligence has started to work its way into the health and wellness space. AI guarantees more efficient and early triage of unhealthy behaviors and habits, while helping to locate treatments based on a specific biological profiles. Firms should continue to aggregate the modules of each previous program (point systems, heart-rate monitoring, sleep measuring, etc.) as well as incorporate all the past and current health and wellness digital trends into a single program.