Make Wellness Fun

Making wellness Apps that are entertaining and effective will do a lot for our health. The glitch is that most wellness Apps are just no fun and this makes the repeated use of wellness Apps very low, often the worst among all App categories. But fix this and you have the inappropriately termed new killer Apps. Nice theory maybe, but how to go about this?

The trillion dollar health care industry produces drugs and treatments for sick people. That makes sense. But think about this for a moment: did you know that 95% of people are actually sick each year? Helping people to stay healthy is way more desirable and cost effective than treating them once they get sick. There are preventative drugs and screening for future illnesses, but a lot of staying in good health is about lifestyle, wellbeing, contentment and even happiness. It’s kind of obvious and the right to the pursuit of happiness is even written into the US constitution.

The population segments in to the healthy, the future sick, and the sick. As noted, the truly well among us are a small minority. Then there are those who are likely to become the future sick folk — the massive drug company Pfizer calls them “pre-patients”. The future sick includes everybody! The future sick need to be steered onto a healthier path for whatever significant risks they face. Finally, the people who are already sick need clinically approved drugs and treatments, but with follow-up that nudges them into healthy future behaviour.

I drew this health and wellness map to illustrate how people can cycle between these states. A key to getting people healthy or staying healthy is to nudge them into changing their behaviour. Once changed, the healthy habits need to be compelling at the very least and I’d argue that newly formed habits need to be entertaining to really stick. Nir Eyal writes about this in his excellent book, “Hooked — How to Build Habit Forming Products

Clinical drugs and treatments cost a fortune to develop and take years to get approval. In contrast, wellbeing approaches can be amazing, useless or even unhealthy since they are not regulated. But just like Apps, wellness ideas are spread by users through social media, media and by word of mouth as opposed to through research publications or by drug company representatives’ lobbying of doctors. Put the Apps and wellness together and the rankings and favourites process ought promote the great solutions and kill the bad ones.

Pokémon Go had millions kids around the world running through parks and getting exercise. Those kids would normally have been playing their video games lounging around on the couch. But there aren’t many examples like this. Apple’s health efforts are worthy but no fun. App developers need to put a spin on health and wellness that draws people into the world of entertainment, leisure and pleasure. Dating Apps, AR-VR experiences, dog lovers walks.. anything apart from another nagging notification to walk more steps today.

Making wellness fun is not just about high-tech, it is also about having amazing and proven content that really works. Success is about connecting the tech and the content together in a really accessible way. There are incredible wellness support programs out there that are run by not-for-profit organisations and many of these can benefit from the digital enhancement of their existing offerings, potentially reaching out to vastly expanded audiences. The Gilda’s Clubs were inspired by cancer sufferer Gilda Radner, the first female comedian on Saturday Night Live, so if anybody knew about fun content it was Gilda! The downtown Gilda’s Club in Toronto is a great example that provides cancer support workshops, kids activities, cookery classes and lots more. I’ve been helping to put together their digital transformation plans as a volunteer and Gilda’s Club Toronto will soon be extending their programs into the digital space, helping to complement their activities both at Cecil Street and off-site. Why not help and donate to their cause?

So, let’s see some more imaginative solutions like Gilda’s Club Toronto.