Can we quantify the “Value of Wellness?


I have started asking this very simple simple question to people when I present the work we do at Nuwe and the result is that everyone generally answer with a very loud “yes, very well” but if you dig a little deeper and ask how they can measure it that’s where the confusion starts. There is no real quantification of the “Value of Wellness” even though it is the most important Social Capital of our society. Without “well” people there would be no family, no work, no progress, no economy…there would be nothing else than a crippled world.

So why if we ask another question like "Are you financially wealthy?" people can easily start a quantification process: they clearly start thinking in their mind to their salary, their savings, their mortgages, their credit cards bills,…they have a clear set of metrics defined by another important Social Capital named Financial Wealth, which is directly linked to a very important human right, the right to work.

Let me enforce the point with a real story. I met Michael at the conference Health 2.0 in London last year. He is 43yrs old, born in London and married with 3 teenage kids. He was diagnosed aged 12years old with the incurable bowel illness known as Crohn’s Disease and had his first resection at the age of 15. Over the next few years he underwent over 20 major operations before being left with around 60cm of small bowel left. I remember that when is was telling his story on stage he said the following: “my doctor looked at me in the eyes and told me that I should have done my part in this journey; I should have been disciplined in collecting data to help him do his job: a wonderful example of vital collaboration that resulted in Michael being able to truly answer in details the question “Are you well? because of the quantified self work he has done and keeps on doing.

The point is why it should take such a scenario for others to get to that point; we should be able to quantify our Wellness from the day we are born.

"The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” - Mark Twain

I have decided that the reason why I was born is to dedicate my time, my resources and my skills to quantify the “Value of Wellness” and enable people to possess their “Right to Wellness".  This is the reason why I founded Nuwe (New We, where “We” stands for us and its also the beginning of We-llness).

The current technology revolution, which is often compared to the industrial revolution in terms of solidity of trend and importance of change, has a common effect in every market is changing: user centricity. Technology is “Freeing” people by enabling knowledge that leads to contextual decision making. We want to do our part in “freeing” people to manage their wellness and therefore quantifying the value of wellness as a metric that can be used to make informative decisions. Wellness should not be in the hands of health care providers nor brands; it belongs to people and it should be managed by people.

The wellness problems we are facing are vital and fundamental to the survival of our society. Wellness is becoming a key economic driver across global economies as health care bills continue to mount driven by increasingly extreme lifestyles (sedentary or over-active) led by the vast majority. As the population ages, the risk of a "wellness time bomb" crippling our society, damaging businesses and ruining countless lives becomes ever more real.

Let’s try to draw a picture by imaging if the 40% obese people and the 30% overweight people (this is a very approximate split that applied to many countries in the world) will one day feel sick all together. Does it exist an health care system that would be capable to service those needs for “care”? I doubt it very much. Societies will crack and large corporations will become un-peforming workplaces where people will not anymore find the strength and the drive to “care” about the business goals because their are trying to “care” about them first.

I have been quite catastrophic on purpose here; lots of statisticians would argue that the likelihood of that scenario to happen at once is very low, still an option, but low. But I wanted you to feel the urgency for the work we are doing. Nuwe stands for everyone's right to wellness and against the fragmentation of data and technology that stands in the way. We are excited by the power of technology and collaboration to enable more people to make informed choices about their lifestyle and wellness. 

Most of us are completitley unaware and unable to act. Solutions currently involve multiple technologies leading to friction & fragmentation in the market that results with no one, actionable metric for wellness against which to plan and judge our actions. The result is that we hardly understand what is good for us an individuals. Food is a good example; at the origin of human beings we did not have supermarkets, we just walked in the world and grab a “banana from a tree” driven by a natural input. Nowadays we are forced to trust food brands that chuck in the market thousands of product, wellness professionals that create a new diet, a new training plan every month, supplements brands that invent a new mix of minerals and vitamins to get us well…but the reality is that no one can quantify the “individual impact” of any of those (do not get me wrong here, I am not judging the good faith of any of the providers I just mentioned, I am just  identifying the hole in strategic assessment and monitoring).

Technology and data have begun to play a role in helping niche groups to understand isolated activities and the universal language of calories and joules remains the mot widely understood lever for change. There are thousands of products in the market, and coming to market, such as FitBit, Jawbone, MyFitnessPal, many are working on medical devices, Apple is about to launch the Apple Watch...
But wellness is a global concept, one that draws on numerous factors from exercise to diet and nutrition, to mental health and gender. No one wearable device or application gives a holistic view of an individual’s wellness or provide the perfect solution for doing that. Thus the situation we are experiences is absolute fragmentation and isolation where business objectives are overlapping with the main value proposition: help people live a better life.

Government and research bodies, such as the Nuffield Health, have started calling the corporate world to intervene and act to enable change. 
Investment in Wellness in the workplace is not just a “Nice to Have” but a “HAVE to Have” strategy because it benefits all the parties involved making workforce more productive and more motivated. The following are few statements I have collected along the way:

  • Every $1 invested in corporate wellness pragrammes yields roughly $4 in savings through reduced sick days, higher productivity and decreased overall costs (Corporate Wellness Magazine).
  • Investing in wellness delivers a quanitifable bottom line impact - 10-15% uplift in performance (Nuffield Report 2014).
  • Overweight people are 32% more likely to miss work, with obese people 62% more likely and the morbidly obese more than 118% more likely to miss work than their healthy weight counterparts (Virtual Medical Centre).

The result is that big projects and initiatives failed: Google Health failed, eHealth projects in large corporations such as Vodafone and O2 failed. Interviewing professionals that know those workplaces very well I got to the conclusions that the main reasons for failure are: lack of skills and knowledge of the subject, no suitable sales channels for the solution and lack of metrics to measure the return on investment. In other words, it all sounds great but we do not fully understand what’s required, we cannot distribute it and we cannot measure it.

"It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” - Henry David Thoreau

I see solution, I see a system that via connected wellness applications can unlock the true potential of wellness data and the Internet of Things to the benefit of individuals, communities and workplaces.

I see is a community of developers and wellness stakeholders (academics, professionals; users) sharing experience, ideas and solutions.

I see  an ecosystem of wellness applications that speak the same language, all share data and all contribute to the creation of a true universal Value of Wellness.

This the future we are building at Nuwe, this is the future I and my team believe in. Join us in this journey, it will be rewarding and worth. We will benefit from it in the years to come.