Disney and Technology: Where Dreams of Better Health Come True?

By Gillian Christie

Smart fitness wristbands that track hours slept and steps walked are revolutionizing personalized health. They offer a comprehensive view of physical activity and sleep, two essential contributors to one’s health. It is expected that smart fitness wristbands will sell four million units at an average selling price of $140 this year, a trend that is only expected to grow.

One company integrating wearable technology into their operations is Walt Disney World (WDW). In 2013, WDW introduced MyMagic+, a smart wristband that enables personalized experiences of its theme park in Orlando, Florida. MyMagic+ provides visitors with an all-purpose admission ticket, hotel room access, a food and souvenir payment system, and fast passes to avoid queuing. The wristband syncs wirelessly with a mobile application and sends alerts when it is time to ride Splash Mountain or meet Donald Duck. The personal information collected from the smart wristband is used to customize existing and future visitors’ experiences.

With smart fitness wristbands transforming health, WDW’s MyMagic+ has an opportunity to extend move into this field? Visitors could personalize their theme park experience while simultaneously improving their health. As Michael Hankins, Chief Physician for Disney Parks and Resorts Health Services, noted at HIMMS14, WDW is interested in improving health promotion, and primary and secondary prevention in the workplace. Why not replicate that thinking to WDW’s more than 50 million visitors each year in a country where 17.9 percent of GDP is spent on healthcare? Adopting a strong stance on health could move Disney beyond their attempt to address rising childhood obesity levels by assuring that its characters only appear on foods that meet nutritional guidelines for calories, fat, and sugar. Making Mickey mobile and healthy using personalized technology has wider benefits for fostering a culture of health in the US and beyond.

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