As you consider the progress we’ve made toward improving the health of our nation, you likely feel like a kid in the backseat of a car on a seemingly never-ending drive. Asking in a dejected tone, “Are we there yet?”
Given our current national health statistics, it would be understandable for you to have a very pessimistic outlook on the future. For you to be growing impatient with our progress, or lack thereof.
Despite the proliferation of medical breakthroughs, technological advancements, national prevention campaigns, healthcare legislation and innovative wellness programming, we’re getting fatter and sicker and more expensive. We’re desperately battling obesity, smoking and an alarming rise in chronic illness. And yes, reports suggest it will only get worse.
Fortunately, there are signs that the majority of Americans aren’t satisfied with the status quo and that they are becoming more motivated to do something about it. This provides reason for cautious optimism, reason to believe that we could be on the verge of a tipping point in our pursuit of healthier lifestyles for all.
People truly do want better health.
Recent reports show that 70% of smokers want to quit. And 55% of Americans say they would like to lose weight. The immense popularity of television shows like The Biggest Loser and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution provides a subtle cultural clue that America is pondering its growing navel.
People are also making attempts at better health.
Each year, people spend $50 billion, just on diet pills. They also spend more than $21 billion in the fitness industry, $10 billion on anti-depressants and another $10 billion on self-help books. In 2012, researchers predict we’ll see more than 44 million downloads of health applications to mobile devices. By 2016, that number climbs to 142 million.
American consumers are demonstrating a voracious appetite for healthy solutions, and they’re doing so with the best possible economic indicator: their checkbooks. The statistics above suggest that, to a degree, consumers are taking matters into their own hands, spending nearly $100 billion outside of traditional medical care, likely outside the purview and guidance of a primary care physician. On the whole, these efforts have not been widely successful, again considering that all the health statistics continue to trend in the wrong direction.
As an industry, we have to support and encourage this growing motivation among individuals by offering them more attractive and affordable products and services that are connected with their medical providers for a more comprehensive, integrated and successful approach.
If we can transform our delivery of medical care to be more proactive and capable of providing personalized support to individuals, we will fuel a movement that rivals seatbelts, littering and other historically successful behavior change campaigns.
Those are big “ifs” but based on the potential that lies just ahead, we see a truly unique opportunity before us. Consumer demand has never been higher. People want to be healthier. They want help. And they will invest in services that deliver results. It’s our responsibility as an industry to give them what they want, and what they need. And to make it affordable and widely available.
IF we do, we might just get there after all.