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Knocking on Doors

September 26, 2012 | Tags: Featured , Health | Post comment

Knocking on Doors

In the almost 10 years since the founding of The Full Yield it’s become increasingly common knowledge that our modern diet is bad for us, that junk foods aren’t empty calories after all but are in fact a primary cause of disease and are addictive besides.  More and more people, and more and more industry leaders, are focusing on the links between food and health and there are a great many reasons to be hopeful about what our food landscape and our public health stats will look like a decade from now. 

In these same 10 years, companies in every industry have become adept at collecting extraordinary amounts of data, making it easier and easier for them to micro-target their customers.  

The combination of “big data” and “digital health” are driving a revolution in the healthcare industry, supporting among other things the development of new lifestyle products and services and better algorithms linking various behaviors and various rewards.

In Calculating Campaigns, New Yorker writer James Surowiecki reviews traditional and more modern efforts to engage and influence voters.  Experiments by the political science researchers Alan Gerber and Donald Green compared three ways of getting out the vote: calls from a call center; direct mail; a home visit. 

The most effective strategy?  Knocking on doors.

Other techniques found to be effective include social pressure and positive reinforcement. This is no surprise: we are social animals after all.

One of the great stressors in modern life is our lack of gratifying, affirming social and emotional contact.  Many people find they have too little access to their healthcare providers to feel known, much less understood or cared for.  Many people long for the days when calling customer service meant you could be heard, responded to, and validated rather than bounced from one recording to another.  

We have evolved to expect less but we still want more.  Farmers markets are increasingly popular not only because we are recovering the true value of food to our quality of life but because we are also recovering the true value of meaningful social interaction to our quality of life.

The investment by the food industry in hyper-refining foods has had the unintended consequence of making us sick and fat.  Will the investment by the healthcare industry in hyper-targeting our micro-behaviors have unintended consequences as well?

As powerful as data and digital platforms are, if healthcare services and products get too far away from intimate human engagement, if the social pressures utilized are absent a social group we actually feel kinship with, if the positive reinforcement is all coupon and no contact, we’ll be as underserved by these services and products as we are undernourished by white bread.

 

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