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.

Before Picking a Youth Sports Team, Consider These 3 Things

By Brandon Capaletti

With summer now here, many parents’ thoughts are changing from school and spelling tests toward soccer games and T-ball practice. If you are looking to enroll your child in a sport, here are some important considerations to help you choose the right sport, team and coach. youthfootball

Choosing the Right Sport

The first step in choosing a sports team is choosing the sport itself. Some considerations to make include:

  • Your child’s interest, temperament and physical abilities
  • Your schedule
  • The cost of equipment and participation

As you look at these basic factors, strive to find a sport that balances your child’s abilities, goals and needs, as well as the needs of your family. Often, parents will choose a sport based on their child’s interests and physical capabilities, and this is a great way to introduce a child to athletic events. Just make sure to consider other factors, like cost. Some sports, such as football, come with a significant cost because of the gear required. Volleyball, track and field, and swimming or diving are some of the cheapest sports, with football, baseball and hockey topping out the list of expensive sports. Parents pay an average of $671 per year on the fees, equipment and other costs of youth sports.

Another consideration to make is whether your child is best suited for a team sport or an individual sport. Team sports teach children the value of teamwork and encourage them to work with others to reach a particular goal. Individual sports, like gymnastics or swimming, may be better for children who are driven to push themselves or who have a hard time with the winning and losing aspect of sports. With individual sports, however, the social benefit of playing sports is diminished, as is some of the learning to work as a team.

Choosing the Right Team Continue reading

How Play Changes from Toddlers to Teenagers

By David Reeves

toddler_playOne of the most interesting aspects of raising or caring for children is the opportunity to watch the way they change and develop, and much of this is seen in the way they play. Young toddlers spend time learning fine and gross motor skills while playing in tandem, but not necessarily with, their peers. This gradually progresses until pre-teens and teens are more interested in the social aspects of their play, having mastered the motor skills long before. When considering playground equipment, an understanding of these changes is crucial.

The Evolution of Play

How does play evolve? It seems to develop alongside the child’s physical and emotional growth. Children begin truly playing, rather than just exploring playthings, in their toddler years. From around the time they start walking until they hit the preschool, children are spending most of their time perfecting their gross motor skills. Walking, climbing, dancing and jumping are all favorite activities. Throwing and kicking balls are also popular playtime. Children this age may play with other children to the point of dancing at the same time or mimicking movements, but you will observe little in the way of cooperative play.

kid_playThat begins to change around age three. During the preschool years, children begin to “pretend play” in earnest. They enjoy playing with other children and engaging in pretend activities together. While the motor skills are fairly well developed at this point, children can still be a bit unsteady on their feet, so they prefer smaller items to climb on.

Once children hit the elementary school ages, from six to nine years old, they become increasingly social, yet are still fine-tuning those gross and fine motor skills. During these years, risk-taking behavior is common. Children want to jump higher, run faster and climb higher than they have in the past. Their play is largely group-oriented, even if the group is somewhat small.

Once children hit the pre-teen years, from nine to 12 years old, they start to develop some independence in their play, yet still enjoy playing with other children. These are the years when children may begin to outgrow some childhood pastimes, like dressing up or playing pretend fantasy games, in favor of more strategic play activities and games, like organized sports or more difficult board games. Once they hit teenage years, play is almost entirely social, although some kids still enjoy physical challenge. Organized sports are quite popular with teens. Continue reading

Childhood Obesity: A Mom’s Perspective

By Cathy Wilson, PCC, BCC

As a concerned mom, I am very aware of the challenges of childhood obesity with my own kids. I’ve struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember and it wasn’t until my adult life that I’ve been successfully able to keep off 147 pounds. My husband has had the same challenges as well. Studies have shown that kids whose parents are overweight or obese are at much higher risk for becoming obese themselves. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics found five risk factors for childhood obesity. The main risk factor was parental obesity. Thankfully, I read these statistics when my kids were babies. I was aware and determined to do everything I could to make sure to introduce healthy eating and activity into our family.

Many kids today spend hours in front of a screen. Their screen time often includes watching television, playing video games, interacting with social media, and cruising the Internet. During this sedentary time, kids are also seeing unhealthy food and drink advertisements. The combination of the sedentary behavior and the increased likelihood of unhealthy snacking during that time is a very concerning risk factor for obesity.

In a company, leaders are the examples and establish the standards for staff. The same dynamic exists for families. Parents are the role models, the example for their children, and set the standards. As parents, if we eat healthy and incorporate activity into our regular routine, our children see that and it becomes the norm for them too. Our parental influence has a huge impact for behavior and habits in our kids.

Activity with your family is a double bonus for quality family time and building healthy habits that will last your children a lifetime. Here’s a few ways you can do just that: Continue reading

Middle School with Zamzee

By Timothy NguyenTim

My affiliation with Zamzee began roughly in 2011, when the Zamzee team made an appearance at my middle school. I was in 8th grade back then and the idea of an activity tracker that measures your steps intrigued me, as I was unfamiliar with idea to begin with. The enthusiasm of the Zamzee team and their persuasion quickly whipped me on board, and before you know it, the meter was on the way to my doorstep.

At first, my P.E. teacher challenged the class to see who can earn the most points, and I believe that it was the challenge that really got me going on the device. Later on, I ended up winning the competition, and ever since then, the Zamzee meter hasn’t left my side. Many of my friends commented about the device, and I gladly explained to them how it encourages you to get active. I practically wore it everyday to school and to the gym whenever vacation came around. At the gym, I was quickly remembered because I had the meter on: I stood out.

What encouraged me the most about the Zamzee meter was the accomplishments one could achieve. I always became excited when I earned a new badge, and that factor is what drove me to stay dedicated to the meter. Moreover, other than the obtainable badges, their challenges were another prime factor that kept me dedicated. From my standpoint, I thought it was a fabulous idea that one can earn tangible rewards from physical activity. Challenge after challenge, I pushed myself to earn enough Zamz for a product I wanted. That drive eventually led me to earn enough Zamz to purchase Yurbuds from BestBuy, which I proudly use every single day, and for that, I am extraordinarily grateful. It was because of this drive for accomplishment that I found myself pushing my limit of physical activity. There was even one point where I found myself exercising within my house, something I would never find myself doing because of how small my house is. But I was doing it, because of the Zamzee meter. Continue reading

My Zamzee Experience

by Ryan Scheller

photoMy name is Ryan and I am 25 years old. I love to play all kinds of games.

I found out about Zamzee from HopeLab, and have used it for about four months. How do I know about HopeLab? I helped HopeLab create the game Re-Mission2.

I found Zamzee to be helpful in my recovery from cancer because it encouraged me to get up and moving. The device is easy to use, just put it in your pocket and plug it into the flash drive of your computer at the end of the day. The Zamzee will then upload your progress into your account.

Zamzee users can accumulate points two ways. First, Pointz are given on a daily basis, based on just how active the user is during the day. But the other reward system is called Zamz. Zamz are like dollars and are accumulated by doing special challenges that last from five minutes to one hour. The trick is that they need to be done right away, as soon as you click the “bring it” button. Earning Zamz allows the user to purchase a huge selection of items, ranging from costumes for the user’s avatar all the way up to an Xbox One for 56,000 Zamz.  Continue reading

How Playgrounds Foster the 5 Types of Play

ImageDifferent play structures on the playground engage children in different ways, whether it engages their imagination or their intellect. Well-arranged play environments should enhance children’s development by integrating learning and play in a way that’s fun but also boosts development. Here is a rundown of a few types of play and play structures and how they contribute to different experiences for children.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) categorizes play into five different types: creative play, games with rules, language, physical play and pretend play. For the most part, physical play structures, like playground equipment, contribute to children’s physical development by providing places to jump, climb, run and move around in general. Strength in gross motor development, as a result, improves in children who regularly partake in physical play.

Outdoor play structures can also include activities that allow children to engage the other types of play, such as games with rules, pretend play and creative play. Creative play is characterized by activities that let children express their feelings, ideas and thoughts by using their imaginations. Playing pretend on various play structures often features make-believe, role-playing, drama and fantasy games.

Elevated Play Components

playland-zamzee-4Elevated play components are equipment that can be approached or exited from above or below grade. For example, a climber that a child could ascend or descend is considered an elevated play component. These play structures, as you may guess, build balance and strength: two abilities that children use during play on these particular types of playground equipment. Other elevated play components, such as slides, use gravity to produce a sense of rapid descent.

Many elevated play items can be roped into fantasy and creative play as well. If an entire play structure is imagined to be a castle, pirate ship, spaceship or something similar, children are bringing in elements of drama, make-believe, role-playing and ultimately pretend play. This sort of play develops imaginations and steers young minds to think in creative, abstract ways. Continue reading