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  • Karla Fruichantie

Health Data: Don't forget the human elements of wellness

Sometimes it feels like our life has simply become a series of data points. The health and wellness industry isn’t immune, and as we find ourselves immersed in the age of digital health and wellness apps, it’s easy to feel inundated with an overabundance of health data. From step counts, to heart rate, sleep patterns and calorie intake; these tools can offer valuable insights into our well-being. With all this information available, can you utilize it to improve your health? When you review your results with your doctor, do you take systematic steps to better them for your next visit?

While access to data can be beneficial, sometimes all this information can feel overwhelming and distracting, possibly becoming a burden rather than a motivating force. There has been evidence to suggest that there are pros and cons to wearing devices or being overly focused on data. For the purpose of this post, we want to look at how one can use health data in a beneficial way to try and guide lifestyle change without getting burned out or demoralized.

Here are some tips to use data as a source of motivation and empowerment on your journey to a healthier life:

  • Only pay attention to data that is useful for your goals

A problem we have today is that there can be too much data. While health data can provide valuable insights, it's essential to interpret it in context or only seek the data that is useful for your goals. Don't be too hard on yourself if you miss a target occasionally, as life is full of unpredictable events. Take those rest days. Seek guidance from healthcare professionals or wellness experts to understand the significance of fluctuations in your data and how to adjust your goals accordingly. Contextual understanding and selective use of data can be empowering and help you make informed decisions rather than data becoming overwhelming or a burden.

  • Be realistic and meaningful with goals

To ensure that health data serves as a motivational tool, it’s important to set clear and achievable goals. Short term or long term. Define specific objectives related to your health, whether it's losing weight, improving fitness measures, or managing stress. Remember to make these goals realistic and personalized to your unique circumstances rather than trying to meet generic or arbitrary numbers (we know you’re all sick of aiming for 10,000 steps!). By having well-defined targets, health data can become a reliable indicator of your progress and inspire you to stay on track. However, if your goals are unrealistic and you routinely fall short, then seeing the data reinforces your perceived failure and can quickly become demotivating.

  • Embrace the power of positive reinforcement

Health data can be a powerful source of positive reinforcement when interpreted correctly. Instead of dwelling solely on shortcomings or setbacks, concentrate on the progress you have made. Celebrate reaching milestones, whether it's adding in another fruit or vegetable, having another glass of water or reaching your physical activity goals for a certain streak of days. Positive reinforcement can boost your confidence, enhance your sense of achievement, and keep you motivated in the long run.

As part of our coaching programs at HBD International, we follow these steps and use health data as a motivational tool to teach and guide individuals on their health and wellness journey. Data is not used to try and scare or shame people, but rather as a way to improve health literacy and as objective affirmation of progress. That is what sets us apart from other health vendors or programs. Rather than pushing devices and generic challenges with arbitrary targets, we create programs with more consistent contact (personal and group level) which improves people’s understanding of how to set more meaningful personal goals, and how to use the most appropriate data as a motivator and to track progress towards their individual goals.

One of our manufacturing groups, DENSO, received the 2022 C. Everett Koop National Health Award in recognition of their outstanding population health improvements achieved through this method of programming that strives to balance tech and touch. Results like this can only be achieved when there is effective education at the population level paired with effective behavior change at the individual level. DENSO allowed the implementation of our fully integrated health coaching model where coaches engage employees as part of their regular workflow. Without the need to make an appointment or miss time from work, we can meet people where they are both physically and behaviorally, adapting information for individuals and helping them set clear and realistic goals that are relevant to their individual needs and interests. Whether we meet them as a team, during their startup meetings, demonstrating stretches, or catch up individually with employees, our coaches create rapport and most importantly, help individuals understand what is and isn't relevant to them.

Remember that health data is meant to empower people, not control their life. Strike a balance between being aware of progress while allowing people to enjoy the process of becoming healthier rather than becoming a slave to data or feeling like they need to meet goals being tracked by “Big Brother”. When harnessed correctly, and paired with meaningful context and education, health data can be a powerful motivational tool in our pursuit of inspiring people to live a healthier lifestyle. Always remember that the ultimate goal is not just to collect or use data to target people for interventions, but instead to try to find the most useful data that people can use as a stepping stone towards improving their understanding for how to live a happier and healthier life.

For more information on HBD International's award-winning workplace health solution reach out as we'd love to hear from you.


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