Tag Archive | physical activity

An Ounce of Prevention – Too Heavy a Lift?

A blog by Zamzee’s CEO, Lance Henderson 

I recently heard from a woman named Cyndi who is working hard to keep her family healthy. Cyndi has struggled with her weight, and now two of her daughters do as well. In fact, Cyndi’s girls were both recommended by their pediatrician to attend a wellness camp designed to teach healthy eating habits and help overweight kids become more active. Research shows that a lack of physical activity puts Cyndi’s daughters at risk for a range of serious health problems, and Cyndi felt ashamed. She has committed herself to changing her family’s health habits, but change is hard. And the healthcare system Cyndi and millions of Americans look to for support is largely focused on treating illnesses, not preventing them.  

Fortunately, as part of the camp experience, Cyndi and her daughters were asked to try an innovative program that combines a motivational website with an activity tracker to get kids moving more. According to Cyndi, the effect was transformative. The program was fun for the kids, taking advantage of the power and appeal of technology to encourage healthy behavior, and it was something they could use at home. Cyndi saw a significant positive change in her daughters’ level of physical activity as a result. 

Unfortunately, this success story for Cyndi and her kids highlights an insidious paradox in our healthcare system: the lack of funding for tools to prevent, not just treat, illness. Providing the new prevention tool to kids and families at the wellness camp Cyndi and her girls attended required philanthropic support. Insurance wouldn’t cover it, and the hospital running the camp had limited resources to support new, innovative programs on an ongoing basis. Had Cyndi’s daughters become obese, her pediatrician could have easily prescribed an expensive bariatric surgery (at a cost of $25,000 or more), but there is no routine, sustainable mechanism for low-cost prevention programs to be prescribed and reimbursed by a health plan. I see this as a deeply troubling problem within our healthcare system – a “prevention paradox.”

The economics of prevention vs. treatment are complex. Comparing the cost of treating one individual to the cost of providing a prevention tool to many is overly simplistic. But it’s time to confront the fact that we need to establish pathways that allow prevention tools to be recommended, prescribed and paid for as routinely as pills and surgeries. As a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the expansion of Medicaid enrollment, new populations are entering the health system, often with higher prevalence of chronic disease driven by sedentary behavior and obesity. This is a ticking time bomb for our healthcare system, one that threatens the foundation of healthcare finance and the health of the next generation. Prioritizing prevention at an early age can help address lifelong chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity and heart disease, with positive results for quality of life and healthcare costs. ZZ_2

The good news is that providing access to practical prevention tools is more achievable than ever before. With the proliferation of new sensor technologies, mobile care delivery tools, and the changes catalyzed by the ACA, the calculus between prevention and treatment may finally begin to shift. Critical for this to succeed, however, will be a deeper and broader body of evidence that proves the efficacy of prevention tools.

Demonstrable impact on health outcomes and costs are key. As one example, the hospital running the camp that Cyndi and her girls attended chose to experiment with Zamzee, the tech-based physical activity program, in part because a randomized controlled study, sponsored by HopeLab and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, demonstrated that the motivational online experience and activity tracker got kids moving 59% more than a control group. This is promising research, but healthcare providers and payers need more data to make the bottom-line decisions that drive healthcare spending. Cross-sector partnerships are needed to help build and disseminate trusted evidence so that the leap of faith seemingly required for prevention spending becomes a rational investment in our health—and an effective strategy for reducing the cost of healthcare for current and future generations.

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Ultimately, providing prevention tools to large populations can be sustainable only if they are fully integrated into health systems—and that means operational and financial integration, not reliance on the generosity of philanthropists and small pockets of innovation within the healthcare industry.

Cyndi and her daughters represent millions of kids and families struggling to be healthy against great odds. We face unprecedented challenges to our health and healthcare system, and if we are to meet these challenges, we need evidence-based tools that we can put into the hands of consumers that inspire and maintain active, healthy lifestyles. Building evidence and changing the payment landscape to make these tools widely available is the work that lies ahead. And each of us—healthcare providers and payers, public policy makers, parents and caring citizens—can play a role in creating a system of healthcare that makes sense for the long-term. Let’s start by focusing on prevention and investing in the health of our kids.

Lance_Henderson_HeadLance Henderson

Lance is Chief Executive Officer of Zamzee, a research-proven product and program that motivates kids and families to be more physically active. Prior to joining Zamzee, Lance served as Vice President, Program and Impact at the Skoll Foundation, where he led an international grant-making and investment program supporting social entrepreneurs. He has extensive experience in finance, fundraising, and executive leadership roles with organizations focused on health and behavior change, including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation.

Every BODY, Let’s Move in Dayton

In September Zamzee was contacted by the National Park Service in Dayton, Ohio about a “Let’s Move” event the community was planning. The park service asked if we could donate a few Zamzee meters to inspire participation, and we were happy to help! Leisa Ling, a park guide at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park coordinated the event, and she gave us a recap of how it went.

September 28, 2013 was a beautiful day. Not only was it the 20th anniversary of National Public Lands Day, it was also the day of our event dubbed “Every BODY, Let’s Move!”, a family-friendly event to promote First Lady Michele Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign.

Held at Huffman Prairie Interpretive Center which is one of the units of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Dayton, OH, the site offers the perfect spot for an outdoor event with its scenic position at the top of a hill under big, old shady trees. The goal was to create an event to draw people of differing interests and ages and fitness levels to come together at the park and do something active.

With five rangers and seven volunteers we offered many different activities, including…

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….a dog walk, a 3 hour hike… Continue reading

Zamzee for Groups Program Curriculum Launched Today

ZamzeeCurriculumToday we announced a new product launch, the Zamzee for Groups Program Curriculum! The Program Curriculum is a complete syllabus for increasing physical activity presented in a lesson-plan-style format that is teachable by any instructor using Zamzee for Groups. It makes it even easier for program leaders to use Zamzee to motivate, measure and manage physical activity.

Over the course of 2013, Zamzee piloted our group program in hospital clinics, schools and community programs. We worked closely with program leaders to use Zamzee to help improve kids’ health. After integrating the learnings from our pilots, in October we launched Zamzee for Groups. Zamzee for Groups is a powerful reporting system which makes it easy for program leaders to get accurate data about physical activity and motivate kids to move more.

After the launch of Zamzee for Groups, we continued to monitor our programs and consider ways we could make it even easier for program leaders to use technology to increase physical activity. The Zamzee for Groups Program Curriculum was developed to help instructors quickly get their Zamzee for Groups programs up and running. It makes it simple to use Zamzee to kickstart a physical activity program or strengthen an existing class. Continue reading

Walking to School with Safe Routes and Zamzee

Safe Routes to School education event - August 24th, 2013 - Adam Brant (28)

“Back in my day, we had to walk ten miles back and forth to school. In the snow! Uphill both ways!”

It’s probably been a long time since you fell for that classic joke. But even though your grandfather probably didn’t walk uphill both ways to school, there is a good chance he did walk to school. Unfortunately, many kids these days don’t have a chance to say the same.

Back in 1969, 48 percent of K-8th grade students walked or bicycled to school. By 2009, only 13 percent of K-8th grade students were walking or biking to school. This uptick in students driving to school has had a big impact on communities. For example, did you know that 10-14 percent of all vehicular traffic between 7 and 9 A.M. is school-related?[1] Moreover, many communities lack the urban infrastructure that would make walking or biking to school safe for children. For all these reasons and more, Congress passed federal legislation in 2005 establishing the National Safe Routes to School program. The new program would fund projects to improve the safety of children walking and biking to school, and encourage families to travel between home and school using these modes. Continue reading

Zamzee Builds a KaBOOM! Playground

On Thursday, we joined forces with KaBOOM! for our first playground build.

On Thursday, we joined forces with KaBOOM! for our first playground build.

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We were pretty excited, and the school was, too!

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And there was a lot of work to do…

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It’s a good thing we had coffee!

Continue reading

The Importance of the Playground: recent research

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By David Reeves

Some of the most important learning in childhood takes place outside the classroom, on the playground. Recent research shows that children develop important cognitive and social skills while playing, to say the least of improving their physical health. Here are just a few interesting examples of skills developing in the background while children are having fun playing.

Longer Attention Spans: In 2009, the journal Pediatrics found that students who were given more than 15 minutes of recess time on a daily basis were better behaved than those who had no recess period. When children in school take a break from learning lessons and are given the chance to play with one another, they are better able to focus on the subjects they are studying. Rather than looking at “play” as something that will take away from “study,” research shows that the two are actually mutually beneficial.

IQ Growth: Playing helps children grow their brains. In a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who were exposed to enriched, play-oriented childhood programs and social interaction had higher IQs at the age of five, as opposed to children who were not given the same play-oriented opportunities. Play is so important to child development that it is even recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a fundamental right of every child. Continue reading

Why Zamzee Focuses on Getting Kids Active (it’s about more than obesity)

Zamzee is a game that gets kids moving: our goal is to fight sedentary behavior by making physical activity more fun for kids. But you might be curious about why Zamzee doesn’t focus on weight or BMI, or help families count calories. That’s a really good question, which we’ve thought a lot about. Here’s why we’ve chosen to focus on physical activity, not just obesity.

Over and over again, new research shows that being physically active is one of the best things you can do for your health – both now, and as a preventative for your future well-being. We know that physical inactivity is bad for you. But did you know that physical inactivity causes 6-10% of all deaths caused by heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer?1 Yep, it’s the truth. The World Health Organization says that physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for death, and The Lancet attributes physical inactivity to 5.3 million deaths per year globally.2 And we all know that physical inactivity can be a contributing factor to obesity. Continue reading