We’ve all heard it and felt it throughout the last few months—COVID-19 has completely turned our world upside down. Yet we’re not done feeling the effect of and learning from these dramatic changes. Out of the sudden, sweeping changes we’ve faced in our day-to-day lives and the fear and loss of loved ones we’ve endured, the novel coronavirus has opened our eyes to the importance of actively maintaining personal health.
We are optimists here at Virgin Pulse. We believe that our societies, workforces and individuals will emerge stronger, but change must begin now. Rather than wait to see what a post-pandemic world will look like, we are taking what the research and data has taught us about this virus and are innovating around it.
We must first protect our most vulnerable by focusing on basic chronic disease prevention. The onset of many chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity can be prevented or delayed by engaging in lifestyle behaviours like weight management, physical activity and a healthy diet. Of the chronic diseases that leave an individual at high-risk with COVID-19, obesity is perhaps the most far-reaching, and it is proving to be one of the most important predictors of severe coronavirus illness and increased likelihood of mortality. People with obesity frequently have other chronic medical problems like heart disease and diabetes, which both independently put patients in a higher risk status than their condition-free peers. Obesity also correlates with higher rates of anxiety and depression – yet another key risk factor in overall health through this season of social distancing and isolation.
Conditions like obesity, heart disease and diabetes don’t happen overnight. Neither does behaviour change. Effectively addressing and managing these chronic conditions takes small, daily healthy habits to create long-term outcomes. Behaviour science tells us that the easiest way to change habits is to reduce friction, incentivise engagement and provide frequent prompts. Simply put, the road to health must be easy-to-use, accessible, motivating and supportive.
In addition to an increased focus on disease prevention, the future of and beyond COVID-19 will demand more sophisticated, flexible and accessible technology tools that work for everyone. The true value of digital health solutions has never been more important.
COVID-19 has fast-tracked the advancement of digital health and wellbeing tools, and the popularity of these programs will only continue to grow. Virgin Pulse has been at the forefront of the digital health revolution, with offerings like VP GO that provides condition prevention and management to support and empower individuals to take an active role in their health when they otherwise would not. And the subsequent improved health outcomes and business results are striking. Including reduced absenteeism, presenteeism, improved workplace morale and work-life balance for our clients.
COVID-19 has shown us that personal health is directly tied to personal safety. And now is the time to take action for a healthier, safer future. In order to be successful in creating lasting behaviours, we must take a proactive, tailored, whole-person approach to health, while recognising the individual facilitators and barriers to behaviour change, like social determinants of health, to overcome the environmental, social and emotional factors that have prevented individuals from forming healthy habits in the past.
Humans are resilient and we will bounce back from COVID-19. But we believe that our bounce back will be more like a bounce forward, leaping into a world where healthcare systems prioritise infrastructure to support remote care, digital access and prevention services. Virgin Pulse is prepared to lead our clients and members in this new era and to successfully navigate what lies ahead together.