Former President & CEO, INTEGRIS Health

A Huge Motivator

Published in The Journal Record
February 10, 2016

For years the state of Oklahoma has performed poorly on most national health indices.   Our performance relative to the rest of the country is such that many of our health officials whisper a small prayer when they go to bed each night, “Dear God, thank you for Mississippi.” 

Our poor statistics are realized despite some valiant efforts by the local State Health Department and its officials.  So the question remains, what can we do to change the situation in a state with comparatively low income and education levels?

Among our poor and distressed population economic circumstances and lack of access to fitness facilities and grocery stores can condemn that population to unhealthy lifestyles.  Among the rest of us we make choices every day where the short term pleasure of overeating or smoking overwhelms our sense of fear about the ultimate outcome of such habits.

But I have an idea and it involves personal motivation. For Christmas I received a device that is held over your collarbone by a magnet placed on an undergarment.  In addition to buzzing if you slouch it also sends a signal to your cell phone counting the steps you’ve taken each day.  The goal is to reach 10,000 steps.  What I really like about this tool is that each day I achieve the goal I receive a congratulatory e-mail telling me how well I’ve done and how favorably I compare to the rest of the population not as motivated as I.  Now, I’m fully aware this is a computer program driven by an algorithm to count steps and send me my individual congratulations.  Nevertheless, I became so enthralled with getting my daily congratulations that I would get up in the middle of the night to exercise in order to complete the goal.

So here’s my recommendation.  Given the fact that almost everyone has a cell phone, could we develop a technology that would address the cell phone user directly, comment on their activity the previous day, and give them words of encouragement tailored to their individual situation?  We know from science if you observe a behavior, you can change it.  What if each of us received a positive or encouraging comment each day based on our activity the day before?  In the words of Donald Trump, it could be a HUGE motivator.

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