In this study, I have been able to conclude that increased online and social engagement with a wellness program will generally improve the mental and physical health of the subject. Creating a program that encourages social engagement and online interactions was established by employing various gamification tools, coordinating in-person and Skype meetings, and regular email communication with subjects. The design and usability of the Ballarat Wellness and Fitbit websites from multiple devices ensured that subjects were able to access both text and video content to support their wellness goals.
Applying behavior modification theory, self tracking technology, and social integration to an online wellness program creates small but significant lifestyle changes that add up slowly to produce long-term healthy behaviors. These behaviors then spread outside of the wellness program through the social interactions of participants to encourage a culture of wellness for the global community to offset the rise in noncommunicable diseases.
Social integration and utilizing concepts of network theory was especially crucial to the program’s success because it allowed me to measure how wellness behaviors and the attitudes towards wellness behaviors are spread through the network of study subjects. I also identified the key roles of individuals in the program’s network the can be targeted to promote or dissuade specific behaviors that affect the entire network. I found that the two points of contact I worked with the most to implement the program, or the “Gatekeepers” of this network, did not improve their health as much as or engage the smaller, splintered clusters of study subjects as well as the “Liasons” and “Bridges” of the program’s network did. These people connected smaller clusters or “cliques” of people in the network, which in turn spread our program’s messaging and wellness behaviors to more people in a highly valued, personal communication channel which I identified to be face-to-face communication.
The Ballarat Wellness study encourage the use of these resources for both the public and private sectors to embrace before needing to rely on surgical and pharmaceutical treatments. While improving the way data is shared and contextualized for the individual needs and behaviors of a user is important to the success of future online wellness programs, more important still is the user interface design and accessibility to the program itself. As Mark Curtis wrote in Wired Magazine (2012), “…services will have to be designed that can be accessed by anyone, regardless of their age, gender, language or indeed, smartphone they use. Those companies that quickly adopt digital and mobile innovations across their health and wellness offerings will find new opportunities — and tough ethical and behavioural challenges — rapidly coming their way.”.
The City of Ballarat expressed an interest in continuing some kind of wellness program with their employees, although no revenue model has been developed at this time. While the City of Ballarat’s relative small size was ideal for conducting a study, it is difficult to acquire the resources involved in hosting a truly integrated and accessible wellness program. However, part of my new job opportunity with Paul Taylor in Melbourne is to apply the concepts of this project toward a national wellness program that combines the resources of a national fitness chain, health insurance company, grocery chain, and popular television series. Utilizing the engaging and largely accessible content of a television series, day-to-day purchases of a grocery store, social interactions from fitness events of a national gym, and rewards program and data analysis of a health insurance company shows great promise in offering a multi-tiered approach to behavior change that not only the people of Ballarat, but the entire country of Australia and global community can benefit from.
1 Curtis, M. (November, 30 2012) One day smartphones will know your body better than you do. Wired. Retrieved from http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-11/30/smartphone-doctors
This Document is a Master’s Project which has been prepared at the request of and in connection with the University of San Francisco Sport Management Program. Neither this Master’s Project nor any of the information contained therein may be reproduced or disclosed to any person under any circumstances without the express written permission of Mae Schultz.