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Farewell... for now

 Jason Berek-Lewis

Founder @ Healthy Startups


The time has come for me to place this blog on hold, to put it into deep freeze, permanently.

I am proud of all the blog has achieved and I thank you all for your support.

Thank you to all the innovators.

Thank you to the blog's sponsors and supporters - especially to Josh Krammes and the SoftLayer Catalyst Program. Thank you to HealthXL for everything.

Thank you to the readers, the retweeters, the Likers...

Thank you for everything,


Jason Berek-Lewis 

Smart Habits startup tackles the digital health habit challenge

Tom Vinciguerra

Founder, Smart Habits


If you’ve followed the growing interest in digital health over the last few years you’ve probably noticed that activity trackers and health apps have been getting a lot of stick. The most common criticisms are:
1) that people aren’t actually wearing them; and
2) they’re not motivating us to live healthier lifestyles
The proposed solutions to these criticisms are also repetitive, falling into one of the following:
1) If we mine the data provided by wearables and health apps we’ll get meaningful insight and change behaviour; 
2) wearables and health apps are poorly designed. If we can create the iPod equivalent of an activity tracker then behaviour change will ensue; and
3) wearables and health apps, in isolation, won’t lead to behaviour change.  If we integrate them with expert coaching from behaviour change experts we can change behaviour
To advocates of point one, consider this. If you don’t smoke, have a body mass index less than 30, exercise 2.5 hours a week and eat nutritious food, your risk of getting a chronic disease is reduced by an average of 80%. So, why do we need a load of data and complicated analyses if all we need to do is track three (four if you smoke) variables? Although there is huge value in mining data sets that include genomic information, population-level data from e-health records and data from wearables, I’m not convinced that mining data from activity trackers alone will provide any value. 
For those who support point two, check out the Withings Activité.
For those who support number three: I agree. And there’s scientific evidence to support our opinion. 
Combining the old with the new

Omada Health offers lifestyle coaching aimed at preventing type 2 diabetes through exercise, good nutrition and weight loss. Omada has digitised a landmark lifestyle intervention called the Diabetes Prevention Program and added smart technology (fitness tracker and wireless scales), online health coaching, and a private social network for its clients. The program was assessed against the original face-to-face Diabetes Prevention Program and results show Omada’s program is more than twice as effective as the original. And, staggeringly, it’s almost ten times more effective than standard health and wellness programs.
As Omada’s success points out, tracking behaviour is insufficient to change it. But when you combine this tracking with expert advice from health professionals, then behaviour change is improved above and beyond 
traditional approaches. 
The power of habits

But why is quantifying our behaviour insufficient to change it? Although there are numerous reasons, one of the biggest hurdles is that wearables and health apps don’t help us break our bad lifestyle habits. Habits sabotage our goals and best intentions, and science has demonstrated this fact many times in areas such as exercise and nutrition. It’s no wonder activity trackers aren’t curing the obesity epidemic!
The complexity of behaviour change and the promise of digital health tools to improve behaviour above and beyond traditional approaches is why we created Smart Habits
What is Smart Habits?

At Smart Habits we offer a selection of 6 and 12-month programs aimed at helping clients increase their physical activity, eat a healthy diet and lose a moderate degree of weight for the long-term. 
Unlike the miracle cures and short-term fixes pedalled by the diet industry, our programs are designed to help people transition to and embed a healthy lifestyle that can be sustained for the long-term, well after the program has finished. We combine expert online coaching from health professionals – including dietitians, exercise physiologists and psychologists – with data from activity trackers and wireless scales to offer an innovative lifestyle and weight loss service that keeps our clients engaged and accountable.  
One of our underlying philosophies is that people, while successful at exercising and losing weight in the short term, eventually slip back into their old habits, leading to weight regain and the resumption of a sedentary lifestyle. The main reason we slip back into our old habits is because people rely on their willpower and grit to lose weight, leaving these bad habits intact. This sets them up to fail. But our approach uses smart tools to pinpoint the eating, exercise and thinking habits that prevent our clients from losing weight, then, with the help our coaches, methodically tames these bad habits as clients progress through the program. 
Australia is sick - and needs help, fast!

Chronic diseases are the leading cause of disability and death in Australia. These diseases not only take their toll on our health system and the people who carry them, but on family, friends and employers as well. Many chronic diseases - such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes - are referred to as 'lifestyle diseases' because they are driven, to a large extent, by the lives we live. 
The recent Australian Health Survey revealed some sobering insights into the Australian lifestyle: 
- Almost two thirds of adults are overweight or obese;
- less than 1 in 10 Australians eat the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables; and
- over two thirds of Australians do very little or no exercise
The increasing rate of lifestyle diseases in Australia has caused many experts to predict a ticking time bomb of disease and disability that could cripple our health system and economy in the coming decades. Despite the gravity of the situation, consecutive federal governments have been asleep at the wheel – more cynical people than I would say in bed with Big Food - when it comes to obesity and chronic disease. This has allowed commercial diets to be many people’s first port of call when it comes to lifestyle change. Unfortunately, diets do not work and our collective weight and lifestyle problems remain. 
One of the key reasons we created Smart Habits was to offer an evidence-based alternative to this quackery. We believe our approach is one of the best services available across Australia, New Zealand and the Asia Pacific and we’re looking forward to growing our business throughout the region.


Addapp for iOS is a beautiful way to live smarter today


Ash Read

Head of Growth, Addapp 



Today millions of us track our steps, sleep, nutrition and much more. The problem is that the data generated from this tracking only tells half of the story.

You can easily see how many steps you've taken; how many calories you’ve burned or how well you’ve slept. What’s not so easy is understanding the relationship between all of these metrics.

We wanted to make that easier.


Turning quantified self into quantified sense


Addapp connects with a number of apps and produces personalized well-being insights based on the data you are already producing about your life.



Get personalized health insights from Addapp


Here’s how Addapp works: You connect the health and fitness apps you’re already using, Addapp analyses your data and then picks out relevant, hand-made insights (really! a human creates each one!) based on your own personal data.

Addapp already connects with: Apple Health, Fitbit, Jawbone, RunKeeper, Moves, Withings, iHealth, Swarm by Foursquare, MapMyRun, Strava, Magellan GPS, FatSecret, BodyMedia, Misfit and Moodpanda.


From quantified noise to quantified clarity


We’re constantly surrounded by data, especially if you use more than one app to track your daily activity. Instead of adding to this infinite stream of numbers and data, Addapp offers only the best possible insights, one at a time.

We believe that you should strive to improve your well-being bit by bit, through small, and sometimes subtle, lifestyle changes. That’s why we’ve taken this approach, to make our insights easily digestible and allow you to focus on just one or two learnings each day.

The Addapp app for iOS is now available for free from the App Store.






Promise or Pay asks: How are your New Year’s resolutions going? 

Jay Boolkin
Founder, Promise or Pay




How are those New Year’s resolutions going? Are you still meditating every day? Did you lose that extra holiday weight? Are you still biting your fingernails? Did you finish that book you were reading? Have you enrolled in that language class?

 Despite our best intentions it can be difficult to stay motivated to make positive personal changes. One study followed 3,000 resolution makers and found only 12% actually managed to follow through with their plans[1]. Another study found that 35% of us who make New Year's resolutions break them by the end of January [2].


Promise or Pay is focused on behavioural economics


Promise or Pay is a new social motivation platform based on behavioural economics, which suggests that the chance of achieving a goal increases 33% if it is shared with others[3] and by 72% if money is put on the line[4]. Promise or Pay combines these two approaches to help you stick to your goals by donating money to charity if you don’t follow through, and by encouraging others to get on board and donate if you succeed.



Promise or Pay motivates people to do the things they most want to do with their lives, while creating a more engaging, personal and empowering way for individuals to donate to charities that make a better world. The first of its kind in Australia, Promise or Pay ensures a win-win outcome is always achieved and people are left feeling good no matter the outcome. To get a better sense of the concept please visit the website 


Spending billions on self-improvement


Australians will spend $6.6 billion on self-improvement in 2014 and $371 million on health and well-being programs[5]. At the same time, Australians are giving more to charity than ever before with the average annual donation amount hitting a record high in 2014[6], with online giving growing by 14% in 2013[7]. Promise or Pay bridges both these markets and targets Australian Millennials (18-35 years) that are dedicated to self-improvement, active on social media and interested in nonprofits, volunteerism, and social issues.

 By traversing the self-improvement and fund raising markets, Promise or Pay addresses two important social issues. It helps raise much-needed funds for charities and their worthy causes in a new and novel way, while simultaneously promoting personal wellbeing and a positive attitude to life which in turn leads to a healthier and happier Australian society.

For individuals, achieving personal goals is difficult - whether it is to quit smoking, lose weight, eat healthier, or exercise more - we often get sidetracked, lack motivation or slip back into routine. Promise or Pay harnesses the power of promises to promote healthy lifestyle habits. It appeals to the human instinct to set goals, to have dreams and to make resolutions. It speaks to a generation of Australians that have grown up in a world where social issues are impossible to ignore and are looking for a way to make a difference. It is the only motivation platform in Australia that integrates charitable giving and therefore ensures a win-win outcome and guaranteed social impact.


A unique tool to take on donor fatigue 

For charities, donor fatigue has been on the rise in the recent years as people become tired with constant requests for donations and, as a result, lose interest in giving monetary contributions. For Australian charities, Promise or Pay offers a new and novel fundraising solution that is fast and effective, and that will dramatically expand their donor base using minimal resources.

 We believe that one promise can make a huge difference. Our vision is to use personal promises to drive real, wide-scale social change. We are working hard to use the nexus of mobile technology, online payments and behavioural science to inspire millions of Australians to be the best they can be and, at the same time, encourage and facilitate millions of dollars in donations to Australian charities.

 So whether you’ve already slipped up or not yet made your New Year’s resolution official, why not take a moment to think about what you want to start, stop, change or do in 2015. Then, when you’re ready, make a promise and make good on your goal.

One promise can make a huge difference. What will your promise be?






 [1] Quirkology. 2007. New Year’s Resolution Experiment. [ONLINE] Available at: resolution.shtml

[2] FranklinCovey. 2008. FranklinCovey Survey Reveals Top 3 New Year's Resolutions for 2008: Eliminate Debt, Lose Weight, Develop Healthy Habits. [ONLINE] Available at:

[3] Matthews, Gail, PhD. (2014). Goals Summary Research. [ONLINE] Available at:

[4] Ayres, I. (2010). Carrots and sticks: Unlock the power of incentives to get things done. New York: Bantam Books.

[5] Oliver, M. (2013). Australians spend big in weight-loss industry: $6.6 billion forecast as Australians battle the bulge. [ONLINE] Available at:

[6] Smerdon, X. (2014). Aussies giving more than ever to charity. [ONLINE] Available at:

[7] Pro Bono Australia. (2014). Online fundraising up - NFP benchmark study. [ONLINE] Available at:


Coming face to face with the impact of health and lifestyle choices

Alexandra Brown
CEO, Co-Founder @ AprilAge



It's becoming increasingly well accepted that technology can change behavior. One of the most widespread examples is the addition of cameras into smartphones. Who even thought they needed a camera in their phone before they first became available about 15 years ago?

However, mass adoption of smartphones with digital cameras has meant that, today, seeing someone (or yourself) taking “selfies”, or snapping pictures of friends and family at any occasion is widely accepted.  What’s more, the sharing of these images via social media has become an immensely popular method of communication and fuels a repeat cycle of even greater photo collection and distribution.


What has this got to do with healthcare?


Combine this shift and acceptance of new consumer technology with what's going on in healthcare. Consumers and patients want information that is personal and relevant. Health and wellness providers want greater engagement and participation in programs that help people prevent chronic diseases, rather than treat them after they’ve developed - which accounts for approximately 75% ($US2 trillion) of all healthcare spending in the USA.  

According to PwC's Health Research Institute (HRI) in the New Health Economy, digitally-enabled care is no longer a nice-to-have, but rather a fundamental business imperative. Industry leaders across health plans, hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry all see major shifts in how care is being delivered.

Digital technology bridges time, distance and the expectation gap between consumers and clinicians.  The HRI surveyed 1,000 physicians and physician "extenders" (e.g., nurse practitioners and physician's assistants) and found that caregivers share similar views with consumers on the promise of digital technology to promote self-management of chronic disease using health apps: in 2014, 28% percent of consumers said they have a healthcare, wellness, or medical app on their mobile device, up from 16% the previous year. Roughly two-thirds of physicians said they would be willing to prescribe an app to help patients manage a chronic disease such as diabetes.


Building behaviour change on top of visualization


AprilAge shows me what I might look like at age 72 if I don't improve my diet and

if I don't increase my physical activity


A large body of well-documented research indicates that visual cues help us to better retrieve and remember information.  The human vision system is a complex and powerful part of our bodies, and we use it and rely on it in almost everything we do. Visualization (the act or process of interpreting in visual terms or putting into visual form) engages the primary human sensory apparatus, vision, as well as the processing power of the human mind.

At AprilAge, we use the power of visualization to “show” vs. “tell.” The APRIL® Face Aging Software was developed to show people the effects of risky lifestyle behaviours (smoking, weight gain, heavy sun exposure) on their appearance as they age. Unlike simple morphing technology or an artist’s rendition, the APRIL® face aging results are based a proprietary database of how real people age. Helping people visualize their “future face” can be the dose of reality that is often just the catalyst that’s required to set someone on a path to a healthier future.


AprilAge around the world


APRIL® is now used by health practitioners, wellness providers, and employers in more than 25 countries to inspire people to healthier lifestyle behaviors. As a digital tool first conceived of for an exhibit in a science center, it is now also installed in more than 30 science centers around the world as these traditional places of science exploration are broadening their scope to include health issues that affect us all:


  • At The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, walking through the Giant Heart has been a rite of passage for children and families. Visitors gain new insights into the anatomy and physiology of the human body through interactive exhibits that emphasize the importance of exercise, healthy diet, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle. 
  • In Germany, Pfizer uses the APRIL® Face Aging Software in meetings with healthcare providers to impactfully demonstrate the visible effects of smoking on their appearance. By personalizing the face aging process for the provider, Pfizer helps them relate to their patients' experience and talk to them about how to quit smoking.  
  • In Canada, as part of the Nivea Haus pop up experience, Bieresdorf created a "The Age Simulator" with the APRIL® Face Aging Software. A main attraction in this busy retail environment, consumers were given the opportunity to see the effects of risky lifestyle factors on their own faces and discus the steps to prevent such damage.  
  • In the USA, a health provider and insurance company have teamed up to pilot the use of APRIL® on mobile tablets in a shopping mall to help consumers visualize the effects of bad lifestyle choices, and to offer them  information on health and wellness programs available in the mall.



Can the future you drive behaviour change today?


But does seeing yourself in the future inspire lasting behavior change when needed? According to a randomized controlled study conducted by researchers from Curtin University within Australian pharmacies, and published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, researchers using the APRIL® Face Aging software found that 13.8% of the study’s participants quit smoking after engaging in the face aging visualization process, well above 1.3% in the control group that wasn’t exposed to face aging visualization. Results were verified by CO2 testing six months post-study.

Why does visualization work? According to a study from Sheffield University’s Department of Psychology, researchers found that the impact of perspective in visualizing health-related behaviors from first-person perspective has a greater effects on motivation to engage in visualized behavior than third-person perspective.* In other words, successfully visualizing yourself completing a behaviour was more likely to lead to actually doing it. In the field of health promotion, visualization has been used to motivate exercise, reduce alcohol consumption, and increase healthy eating.

Today, visualization helps people do things and perform in ways that a few years ago would have been thought impossible. Imagine what visualization could achieve tomorrow...


*The impact of perspective in visualizing health-related behaviors: first-person perspective increases motivation to adopt health-related behaviors, Journal of Applied Social Psychology,  Rennie, Harris and Webb, Dept.  of Psychology, Sheffield University, May 2014