How My Father’s Premature Death Taught Me to Take Control of My Health

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My brothers and I struggled for years with how to help my father who had four chronic conditions — obesity, diabetes, COPD, and CHF. He died of a heart attack too young, despite our best efforts to support him. What my Dad needed most was someone with medical knowledge to help him manage his conditions — day in and day out — and make the necessary changes in his life that would put him on a path to better health. Instead, he got lost in our opaque and impersonal healthcare system, like so many do today.

My father’s journey had a profound effect on me, shaping how I view health and care for myself. It taught me about the connection between mind and body and how integral eating right and exercising are to one’s daily success. My morning workouts are my meditation, stress buster, and brain booster. I take care of myself to avoid the diseases that plagued my father, but also to feel my best and achieve more.

I believe everyone has the power to take control of their health — whether they’re managing chronic conditions like obesity or diabetes, or simply want to get in better shape to chase the kids around the yard. It’s why I started Vida Health, to make it possible for anyone to have their own personal health coach to help them optimize their health and work toward their goals every day.

Here is a good example of why we believe health coaching makes the difference: Samantha is a 35-year-old police dispatcher from Cleveland, Ohio, with a family history of diabetes. In April 2015, she received a diabetes diagnosis with an A1C level of 15% (diabetes is identified when the A1C level , a measurement of blood sugar, is over 6.5%). She was afraid of insulin injections and tried several medications, but the expense and hassle spurred her to search for a better solution.

Samantha found Vida and was matched with a personal coach to help her manage her diabetes between doctor’s visits. Months later, she more than halved her A1C level to 6% and was taken off of medications by her doctor. Samantha credits her coach with providing the personalized accountability and expert guidance she needed to make lasting behavior change. And she is saving over $5,000 a year in medical expenses avoiding diabetes. Samantha’s health coach empowered her to make these changes which she’d struggled with before. She helped her take back her health and improve quality of life.

What if there were millions of Samanthas?

Imagine how we could reshape our healthcare system and improve our nation’s health if more of us took control like Samantha did. We could prevent chronic diseases in the U.S. — with diabetes being one example — and save over $1 trillion in annual healthcare costs that could be invested in other areas like wages and education.

Wages in the U.S. have been flat since 2001 while healthcare premiums have grown 9x.¹ Our country is on an unsustainable track to spend 20% of GDP on healthcare by 2025.² About half of all adults — 117 million people — have one or more chronic health conditions, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease.³ Over 80 million have pre-diabetes and hypertension, both of which lead to chronic diseases if they are not managed or reversed.4 Almost nine out of every ten US healthcare dollars are spent on chronic disease, much of which could be prevented.³ All this adds up to a national healthcare crisis that is crippling our economy, hindering our national competitiveness, and limiting our personal happiness. It affects us all. Each of us can do something about rethinking our attitudes and approach toward our own health and wellness.

The answer lies in coupling technology with a human touch.

Vida pairs individuals with a human health coach who is an expert in behavior change and knowledgeable in the area of need, whether it’s nutrition, weight loss, fitness, diabetes, stress management, or other topics and conditions. You can talk to your coach in real time using text, voice, or video; access evidenced-based clinical programs such as Weight Loss, Diabetes Prevention, Hypertension, and Exercise programs; connect to a community of support, which can include other people, coaches, family members, doctors, etc. Vida connects to over 100 apps and devices as well, pulling in personal data from a variety of sources, including lab and claims data, to create a personalized experience.

One of the most profound benefits of Vida’s approach for patients with chronic conditions is having someone — a coach — in their corner to provide monitoring, guidance, accountability, and social support in between doctor visits. As one person struggling with being overweight and hypertension told us, “It feels like I’m part of team. [My coach] supports me and I feel accountable.” In a matter of months, he was able to lose 40 pounds and reduce his “bad” cholesterol by 79 points.

Partnering with Thrive Global

We are very excited that Vida has been chosen to participate in Thrive Global’s launch both online and in their pop-up store in New York. As we continue to reach out to consumers both directly and through employer health programs, we value opportunities to add to the conversation about health and well-being, and offer a convenient, affordable solution that meets consumers where they are with what they need to live their healthiest lives. As part of the Thrive Global launch, Vida is offering a program that enables you to “Thrive Through the Holidays,” combining Vida coaching and exercise videos from Daily Burn. This three-month program focuses on weight loss, stress reduction, and exercise to help you be your best self this holiday season. Specifically, this 90-day program offers weekly nutrition, stress, and exercise tips, your own personal Vida Coach, access to Daily Burn video library, syncing your devices and apps to share your data with your Coach, a Vida Facebook group, and the opportunity to win an Apple Watch just in time for the holidays. Get your Vida Coach and Daily Burn exercise videos here.


Based in San Francisco, Stephanie Tilenius is the CEO and Co-Founder of Vida Health.

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