What is less understood is the role of technology in turning the theory into reality. Evidence from other countries can be extrapolated to the UK, and tells us that information must be at the heart of efforts to drive more intelligent, affordable care.
The economic reality that underpins the need for change is obvious. Left unchecked, public health trends will place an unsustainable strain on health budgets. Research published by the Lancet in August 2011 showed that the UK is on track to have an extra 11 million obese adults by 2030.
The consequences of this are stark; an obese woman is almost 13 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, more than four times likely to develop high blood pressure and more than three times likely to have a heart attack than a woman at a healthy weight. This represents a personal tragedy for those affected, and an unsustainable financial burden for the NHS.
Politicians and industry figures recognise that in responding to the challenge, Britain needs to change when and where it intervenes to deliver health.
From a case study undertaken at a US Health Insurance Company, one key lesson was that people have to be empowered by technology to manage their own health with a personal health portal for employees that gives staff the tools they need to understand their health information and respond to it.
The evidence shows that putting people in charge of their health delivers results. Between 2007 and 2010, 80% of a consistent cohort of more than 2,800 employees maintained or reduced their number of health risk factors. When this Healthcare Insurance Company challenged their staff to a weight loss challenge in 2011, 1,865 employees took part, losing 22,000 pounds.
These sorts of initiatives, using technology to identify health trends and change lifestyles, could be replicated in the UK by forward-thinking CCGs (clinical commissioning groups) and Health and Wellbeing Boards. If such an approach was applied nationally, Britain could start to address the trend figures for chronic lifestyle problems now, before they become tragedies for the individuals and a financial headache for the state.
Making preventive health a reality won't be an easy job. It requires significant investment, clinical leadership and patient support. In an NHS facing short-term targets, it is all too easy to defer long-term challenges. But while tempting for managers trying to balance the books in this financial year, deferral only exacerbates the long-term problem.
Activ8rlives says: With the advent of the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s) in the NHS, there is an opportunity to take a fresh look at the long-term challenge of transforming where and how care is delivered. Technology innovation can help to drive the process, with information identifying risks and putting individuals at the centre of their long-term health and wellness, whilst improving care and providing it at an affordable cost.
More about Activ8rlives
Activ8rlives provides tools for self-monitoring with the ability to receive eMentoring from the family group, self-help groups or from clinical teams. The Company offers a range of health monitors, from step counters through to electronic “smart” scales, smartphone food diary apps to peak flow meters and pulse oximeters. The online communities combine empowerment through self-monitoring with the added dynamic of group support and motivation. Groups can be led by clinicians or used to provide one to one coaching, to improve clinical outcomes.
Users can track: physical activity, body measurements and weight, lung function and cardiovascular health, blood glucose, HbA1c, cholesterol, C-reactive protein, International Normalized Ratio (INR), medication and bacterial infection markers. Custom trackers such as: dress size, training sessions, pool laps per session, runs per week, sleep duration, allergy reactions, mood, fertility, temperature - in fact anything that can be measured – can be created. Users can join groups of like-minded people or set up their own group to share their successes with family, friends or colleagues in a secure environment. Activ8rlives is free to use and there are no joining or subscription fees.