Unhealthy behavior is the #1 chronic disease in America. It leads to obesity, diabetes, lung cancer, liver cirrhosis, etc, etc, etc…
The top five most expensive diseases to treat in America…diabetes, heart disease, asthma, cancers, and depression. The top two? Mostly caused by obesity.
So…how do we, on a population level, change unhealthy behavior?
Well, we have to understand the concept of addiction. Obesity is an addiction to food. Smoking is an addiction to cigarettes. There is a positive correlation between addiction and the amount of time something takes to affect you. Something tasty is a damn near immediate effect. Smoking a cigaretee…one puff and you’re good to go. The most addictive drugs are those that act the fastest. Heroin is the perfect example.
Since the effects of chronic disease, like obesity and smoking, happen years and years away from the onset of the disease, it’s human nature to not even pay attention to the long term effects..we just focus on the short term satisfaction.
So how do we change behavior?
Tie unhealthy behavior into things that matter TODAY. Make good behavior a competition with rewards that matter TODAY. For example, create competitions like this guy. It’s human nature to be competitive. But take it a step further and put some money on the effort. For every pound he loses, pay him $50.
These are the kinds of programs that insurance companies should be paying for. The only problem is, they suffer from the same short sightedness as our financial industries. Since the average American changes jobs every few years, they change insurers. And no insurer has their money in the game 25 years from now when their investment will have paid off.
See why innovation in health care will never come from within the industry?