Health Guardians America was founded five years ago this summer with the purpose of solving the most pressing healthcare issues in the synergistic fields of public health and medicine.
Obesity is a Tremendously Big Issue
Obesity is an issue that we have taken up as it’s a story too familiar. Obesity is growing, diabetes is rising, and heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The consequence is rising healthcare costs associated with obesity-driven illnesses and diseases in the United States.
For the scientific-minded, sources are widely available in the Journal of American Medical Association, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and public and private federal reports on healthcare spending.
These discrete facts may seem random to you. From a medical perspective, it is clear that obesity as a risk factor drives these leading chronic diseases and illnesses, which in turn surfaces as a symptomatic economic and societal problem as well. It’s the common denominator.
While it’s easy to paint the undertone of the obesity issue as medical, there are other tones as well such as public health, health politics and policies, business and economics interests, and social culture and dynamics.
Remember to Use Prevention
As a then college student with a desire to engage in a meaningful, greater health care issue like many of you, I was shocked in disbelief and sadly disappointed that there were no other campus organizations focused on an issue this big. I searched beyond the walls of the university lecture halls only to find campaigns that focused on general promotion (i.e. First Lady’s “Let’s Move”), specific diseases (i.e. American Heart Association), and/or medical research fundraising (i.e. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation).
While these are all noble organizations, it was strikingly clear to me that there was a relative lack of attention — or a bit theoretical to be ineffective in practice — on the prevention stage, while there is greater financial resources, scientific research, and general awareness spent medical research for the later stage.
I believe in the value of medical research as it caters to the subset of population that require treatment at the molecular genetic and biochemistry levels, but when an issue is this prevalent with over 70% of the U.S. population overweight and obese, it seems to me that there are greater influencing factors involved.
Breaking It All Down On The Floor
I thought critically about this issue for quite some time and came to realize that there are three main influencing factors that lead to obesity: molecular, environmental, and behavioral.
Molecular – Medical research is required for the molecular level genetics and biochemistry pathways in the human body that cause these chronic diseases and illnesses.
Environmental – Health policies at the local, state, and federal government can influence dietary intake that feed the obesity condition through taxes on high sugary drinks and regulations on harmful trans fat foods.
Behavioral – Behavioral relates to the lifestyles people lead, diet and nutrition, physical activity levels, and other consumption habits. It is an area I believe that will have the greatest effect in the large scale if the proper incentives and structures are in place (i.e. Pokemon Go is a great example).
Given we are all college students that best understand the other students around us, I came to the conclusion that we are in the best position to affect change that promotes greater physical activity levels to offset all the high sugar content foods easily available to us around us and decrease the probability of physiological systems failing due to obesity.
The timing is also right as new technological advancement has enabled greater progress and breakthroughs in neighboring disciplines of technology such as in finance (Stripe), sustainable and renewable energy (Tesla), real estate (AirBnB), transportation (Uber), healthcare (NantWorks), gaming (Zynga), e-commerce (Amazon), entertainment (Netflix), etc.
The question then becomes: how do you affect behavioral change leading to greater physical activity levels that becomes long lasting through habit formation?
Developing The Coolest Solution Ever
At Health Guardians America and in partnership with FitLife Technologies, we are working on one of the most groundbreaking solutions to the obesity issue that focuses specifically on affecting behavioral change, a social movement that will promote greater physical activities in the long-term.
Five years ago this summer, I had presented the following masterplan to students, medical students, and faculty from Berkeley, Stanford, and UCSF School of Medicine:
- Design a modern health programme that focuses on promoting the healthy habit of exercising through rewards and incentives while achieving sustainability, scalability, and measurability. The programme needs to support the financing of its own health program internally (sustainable), maximize the impact of its programme by onboarding thousands of participants (scalable), and evaluate the effectiveness outcome of the programme to make iterations on the current version and present the results in a scientific journal (measurable).
- Pilot the health programme at a university level to fine-tune the model.
The programme requires constant tweaking, modifications, and restructuring based on direct feedback from participants to maximize impact, user experience, and build credibility in college communities.
- Scale the health programme across the United States using mobile technology by partnering with the most talented developers from Silicon Valley.
The programme can only further maximize its impact through a medium widely used by the target demographic which happens to be a web and mobile platform to reach the most number of participants and collect data for outcomes effectiveness analysis to guide improvements.
Aren’t We Just Amazing?
Fast forward five years with the generous support of past and present members, our health programme has just landed at the third stage with a sustainable, scalable, and measurable model now in operations across the United States.
We are present in over 10 college campuses, with +100 college members, and +1000 total participants to date. We have logged +10,000 hours, with +70% of our participants dispersed, with +35% fulfilling their health pledge.
While these numbers seem modest, I believe we will experience an exponential growth in the coming years with the continued focus, dedication, and commitment towards solving this important social, public health, medical, healthcare, and economic issue.
The New and Improved Faster, Stronger, Harder Master Plan 2020
For the next five years, the new masterplan will be:
- Scale the flagship college outreach health programme across over 100 campuses, over 100 general members, and over 5,000 participants per campus. (year 1-4)
- Design and pilot a childhood obesity outreach programme using mobile technology for the local communities neighboring the college chapters. (year 1-3)
- Scale the childhood obesity outreach programme. (year 3.5-4)
Basically, it would be awesome to live in a world where you can continually get rewarded just to stay healthy and exercise. Same thing for childhood obesity but incentives that make them happy (Pokemon?).
It will require lots of work but I am confident that we have the capability, resources, and the mental fortitude to make progress towards solving one of the greatest problems of our generation. I have trust and faith in the chapter presidents that I have personally recruited and worked closely with over the year.
I believe that the team he or she has built up from ground up at the major universities in our organization will bring on the most talented, dedicated, and good hearted people that aligned with the mission and culture of our health organization.
The End and Beginning Of Your Lives
While our members prepare to apply for graduate and professional degrees and for the launch of their professional careers, I am certain that the time spent through this organization will be a time well spent with relatable experience as proven by our alumni who went off to become healthcare professionals in pharmaceuticals, dental medicine, medicine or compete at the international stage in the Olympic Games or pursue the business path in consulting or investment banking.
As our members graduate and move on to the next stages of their lives, I believe it will be rewarding to see that the health project continue to grow and prosper from a distance.