SXSW 2019

by Christopher Jankoski

How technology may hold the key to the next generation’s healthier lifestyles

Yesterday officially launched the first day of SXSW sessions for our Ogilvy Health team in Austin, TX. And to our delight there have been a plethora of health-centered sessions exploring everything from mobile health technology, data privacy, healthcare policy, and the best BBQ in Austin (okay well maybe not the last one, but exploring that is definitely on my SXSW schedule too). Regardless of the session’s main theme, the topic of how digital health technologies are impacting our lives was common across the board.

Often the discussion around digital health is aimed at impacting patients’ lives in the immediate, but one panel, Next-Gen Technology Ignites Healthier Lifestyles, took a deeper look at how the digital health experiences of today are teeing-up the opportunity for healthier lifestyles in the next-generation of patients and caregivers.

One panelist, Joanna Strober, discussed a smartphone-based mobile health (mHealth) application aimed at tracking, analyzing, and providing real-time feedback about our nutritional choices to arm users with the knowledge to make healthier choices when it came to eating. She went on to explain that 65% of adults are overweight 38% of children are overweight in the US, and to properly address this issue it should be approached as a holistic/family problem rather than an individualized obstacle to healthier lives. Joanna said that when parents adopted this mHealth platform aimed at improving the nutritional choices for their children, 55% of the parents themselves saw weight loss. By tracking eating habits, this technology was able to effectively engage the parents to inform better health decisions for their entire family and those learned behaviors trickled down to their children — thereby creating a new norm of nutrition in the family unit and leveling-up the overall wellness of the collective.

“When parents adopted this mHealth platform aimed at improving the nutritional choices for their children, 55% of the parents themselves saw weight loss.”

As communicators, we are always looking to deliver the right message–to the right person–at the right time, and as smartphones become a natural extension of our lives; it seems like a no-brainer to offer more personalized health information via these devices. What this panel illuminates is that to truly change behaviors, we need to provide the context to users in order to understand the impact of their health decisions to inspire a new set of norms that prime the next generation for innate healthier behaviors. By designing digital experiences with the context that our health decisions have a wider impact than on the sole individual end-user, we have the opportunity to inspire a culture of health and wellness. So, maybe we should be looking at digital health as more than an opportunity to get your daily allotment of steps for the day, but also as a way to encourage today’s patients to show the next generation what a new norm of health can be.