Healthy Is Hard, Equitable Health is Harder

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At the 2022 Healthcare Revolution Virtual Conference, Chief Growth Officer for Vitality, Tanya Little, Senior Benefits Manager for E. & J. Gallo Winery, Carmella Smyth, and UCLA Psychologist and Professor of Marketing, Behavioral Decision Making, and Psychology at UCLA, Hal Hershfield, discussed how to reach across demographics to strive for health equity.

Societal acknowledgment of the need for accessible and affordable healthcare has accelerated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that mental, physical, environmental, and financial barriers can add complexity to prioritizing healthy behavior, and as the pandemic continues to change the world we live in, helping people overcome barriers to healthcare while managing rising costs and adapting to new ways of working are all top of mind for employers.

Global companies like E. & J. Gallo Winery, a trusted and longstanding client of Vitality, sprang into action at the start of the pandemic by establishing an onsite clinic and task force and have continued to think outside the box on ways to communicate with their workforce. Over the past two years, they worked to promote virtual primary care in all 50 states and listened when their employees reached out to supervisors and HR Managers for behavioral health resources to assist in juggling COVID, work, family, and overall wellbeing.

Behavioral health was also at the center of Vitality’s collaboration with Hal Hershfield on Healthy Futures, where we aimed to understand how best to communicate with people to have the highest chance of them engaging in their health. In this research project, a group of 5,000 people shared key pieces of health information that allowed us to create a personalized forecast about their future health and longevity. The forecasts were often better than what people were anticipating; however, if the health forecast was worse than what was expected, people felt less motivated to make lifestyle changes that would positively impact their future health.

Behavioral scientists have long remained focused on understanding the psychological barriers that make it difficult to engage in your health even when you know that you should. Hal and Carmella’s suggestions for tackling this issue are similar:

  • Simplify the message and be specific. Give people realistic and actionable steps to engage in their health.
  • Take one step at a time to avoid being overwhelmed with too many lifestyle changes at once.
  • Listen to your employees when they tell you how to meet them where they are and remember that different demographics experience different barriers to healthcare.
  • Be mindful of who delivers your message to build trust within your workforce.

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