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The pursuit of health and wellbeing in a digital age

21 June 2024 Momentum Multiply

Shifting the perspective of health to add life to your years.

While the average lifespan is 73, the average health span (1) - which refers to the length of time that a person is healthy, not just alive, currently sits at around 63 years of age globally. The focus of healthcare needs to shift to narrow this gap, to enhance longevity, and quality of life.

Previously, health was thought to be merely the absence of illness or disease. However, we now recognise that symptoms such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, inflammation, high blood pressure, poor sleep, and loneliness are indicators of underlying risks that can lead to disease, even in the absence of a formal diagnosis. The importance of complete health and wellbeing is now recognised – including the interconnected importance of mental health, sleep and human connection, in addition to nutrition and exercise that traditionally receives prominence when considering healthy lifestyles.

Influenced by the technology and information age, we now have greater access to information about ourselves and our health risks. Digital innovations have made this information more accessible and easier to understand. There are compelling opportunities to reshape the pursuit of wellbeing by demystifying information overload and enabling greater self-awareness.

Know your health

Along the path to complete health the first step is knowing your health and taking heed of the notion that prevention is in fact better than cure. With non-communicable diseases, largely preventable or reversable by lifestyle changes, taking up most share of deaths by broad cause in South Africa at 51,3 % (2) knowing your risk, and taking active steps to prevent lifestyle related illness has a profound impact on health span.

“People who know their health claim less,” says Márcia Eugénio, Head of Momentum Multiply’s wellness rewards programme. “Through new and evolving digital platforms, we’re able to provide personalised, meaningful information, making it easier for them to make informed decisions about their health.”

Momentum Multiply uses photoplethysmography (PPG) technology in the Multiply app for face scans that monitor vital health markers, including autonomic nervous system regulation and lifestyle disease risks. Traditionally requiring a 30-minute consultation and a trip to the doctor, this scan can now be done in 90 seconds from anywhere. This innovation allows individuals to quickly and easily monitor their health, gaining important insights without the inconvenience of visiting healthcare providers, empowering proactive health management at no extra cost.

“What’s exciting about living in this digital era is that apps have given us the opportunity to be better informed about the choices we make. Through technology, eating healthier has never been more attainable. Technology allows you to track not just calorie intake but also micronutrients with the snap of a photo that scans the food we consume. This helps us make healthier choices and also understand how much of our daily allowances we are consuming, and guide modifiable lifestyle changes,” adds private practising dietician, Mbali Mapholi.

Active pursuit of complete health

“By creating an awareness of the relationship between our physical and mental health, as well as our social, economic, and environmental circumstances, through personalised insights on risks and guidance on actionable steps, we’re shifting our members’ focus from sick care to empowered health and wellbeing. This is the culture we aim to create—a culture of knowing your health to own your health.” says Eugénio.

Neurologist and founder of Memorability, Dr Kirti Ranchod believes that the best of tech is to go beyond what is biologically possible and through her work has seen a definitive shift in people seeking to understand the impact of mental health, and tools to navigate their mental wellbeing.

“Tools that can help reduce stress and anxiety are meditation, mindfulness and art. Drawing is a very active form of meditation and has been shown to reduce heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels, which are the markers of stress. Looking at the ecosystem, exercise and nutrition has been shown to be as effective as medication for some people with anxiety and depression and so is social interaction. It’s important that people consider the time and resources that they have available to them to help them along the journey,” adds Dr Ranchod.

Incentivising better health through behavioural shifts

“Often with technology, there’s an overload of information that can be negative, so it’s important that we build incentives and motivation to change behaviour within digital tools like apps and consider how we foster community and collaboration to facilitate connection and impact of habits,” says Dr Ranchod.

Success seen by Momentum Multiply is a prime example of how behavioural change for better health outcomes can be a game changer in the pursuit of complete health. The business believes that key to better health is incentivising people to take control of their health and wellbeing. It supports the goal of health insurer, Momentum Health Solutions to go beyond traditional healthcare services by actively enabling more health for its members.

“For us it’s important that we not just reward people who are healthy but help incentivise people who are unhealthy to make better choices and be rewarded for pursuing better health – whether that be taking chronic medication to manage hypertension or rewarding you for actively managing your mental wellbeing. As we move forward, it’s crucial that we continue to prioritise and invest in complete health. After all, our health is our wealth and our most valuable asset,” concludes Damian McHugh, CMO of Momentum Health Solutions.

The mindset switch of pursuing complete health has far-reaching benefits. Improved quality of life, longer lifespan, and lower healthcare costs are just a few of the positive outcomes associated with this comprehensive approach. Moreover, a healthier population contributes to a more resilient society, capable of better withstanding the challenges posed by health crises and other societal pressures. As technology continues to advance, it’s crucial to continue to humanise our approach to improving both physical and mental health.

1. Life Expectancy - Our World in Data
2. https://data.who.int/countries/710

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