Washington’s obsession with the problems of health care is nowhere near new news, yet the debate over solutions rears again as 2008 presidential candidates declare their stances. The latest approach to the high costs of health care is preventative care. The idea is that preventive medicine will keep people from getting sick. Thus, less health care will be needed and the nation can lower its medical bills or provide health insurance for the millions of American’s who lack it.
Some economists, however, doubt whether preventive care will actually save the country money. How then can we prevent disease without spending the dough? New York Times reporter David Leonhardt offers that “if it were somehow possible to wave a wand and turn people into thin nonsmokers who remembered to take their statins, this country’s health care expenses would fall.” While the magical land of wands is sadly nonexistent, the scarily similar world of electronics is proving itself to be a health haven.
2007-launched Wellsphere.com took the health care issue head on. Like today’s politicians, the website’s founders, Run Gutman and Dave Kashen, identify prevention of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, as the number one way to cut health care costs. Yet instead of promoting preventive care, Wellsphere promotes preventive lifestyles. Gutman and Kashen’s multi-disciplinary research study at Stanford University revealed that the best way to fight chronic illness is for people to eat healthfully, exercise, and reduce their stress. While this may not sound so novel, the finding that the best way to achieve this feat is through community involvement and the link to health care costs are.
Their site is a type of social network where community members help each with their weight loss and fitness goals. Wellsphere members can ask other users, which include fitness and nutrition professionals, for tips and advice on anything from injury prevention to antioxidant rich foods (which help keep cancer at bay). Wellsphere is ingenious because it gives the user the option of remaining anonymous. This is appealing to users who are not already leading a healthy life (and may be the most prone to chronic diseases) and are hesitant to join weight loss programs where they need to be physically present. When members are ready, they can find activity partners in their area to go running, mountain climbing, biking, etc. with, and in the meantime, they still benefit from their community’s insight and encouragement.
Members can create groups where they can arrange outings and share information on anything from snowboarding in Tahoe to breast cancer. Wellsphere also has a collection of workout and healthy cooking videos that users can watch. All in all, it is a great resource and companion for everyone aiming to live a healthier life and avoid rising health care costs. Wellsphere gets prevention.