We’ve known for some time that lifestyle is closely tied to health and risk for chronic disease. It’s a topic that’s gaining increasing interest by employers and health plans as they seek ways to improve employee and member health while reducing the skyrocketing costs of chronic disease and other healthcare conditions.
According to the CDC, chronic health conditions cost employers $36.4 billion a year in reduced productivity due to absenteeism.
The move toward habit change as part of improving individual’s foundational health is key, but employers and health plans need to be aware that there are key differences between highly effective habit change experiences and those that deliver only short-term results.
Lifestyle habits are highly individualized from person to person. Factors such as personality, goals, social determinants of health, living environment, and even genetics, all play a role in how a person creates habits—positive or negative—over time. This is why typical one-size-fits-all disease prevention programs rarely return optimal results; they overlook important factors that influence an individual’s ability to make true, lasting health improvements. The best programs are those that incorporate all of these unique factors to create a hyper-personalized plan for each participant that intervenes at their daily choices and behaviors.
Following are seven components Newtopia has found to be most effective in creating highly personalized habit change experiences that actually deliver sustainable results. By understanding and evaluating these components, we get to know each participant and are able to better equip them to drive outcomes.
Biometrics. We begin by using existing biometric screening data, claims data, or an online risk screener, all of which are used to identify risk factors among a client’s employee population. Factors leading to Metabolic Syndrome are a key area of focus: waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood glucose levels. We then stratify that population to determine the most appropriate type of intervention for each employee. Using this information, each employee is assigned to either a broad-based disease prevention program or a personalized program focused on their particular risk factors. These might include diabetes prevention, weight management, hypertension and heart health, or diabetes management.
“My annual wellness exam and bloodwork are exponentially better, and I have so much more energy! These things combined have improved my quality of life to the point that my attitude is more positive, my stress levels have come down (personally and professionally) and I enjoy being more active with my family.”
Shon, Newtopia participant
Personality. Having a dedicated coach to help guide and support participants is one of Newtopia’s differentiators, which is why every participant is matched to their very own coach—we call them “Inspirators.” This matching is based on a personality questionnaire to which we apply our proprietary 18-point algorithm to reveal the individual’s personality subtype: emotion-based, opportunity-based, and all-or-none. Each of these subtypes has unique characteristics that play into an individual’s ability to achieve long-term health and wellness improvements. By matching participants and Inspirators with complimentary subtypes, we can create more effective relationships that build trust and collaboration and bring greater results.
“My favorite component is my Inspirator, Blanche. She has helped me make gradual changes to my diet over the course of a few months–changes that not only helped me lose weight but also have me more focused on my health and what I am actually putting into my body. She is focused on the same goal, and she holds me accountable, which is exactly what I need to remain focused on my goal.”
Brad, Newtopia participant
Genetics. Research shows that our genetic makeup can substantially impact our health and lifestyle choices. In fact, our genes can influence the predisposition for being overweight by as much as 80%. Newtopia encourages participants to take advantage of our genetics testing so we can identify any genes that may inhibit their ability to make sustainable improvements. We then use the insight gleaned from genetics testing to build their program. For example, the MC4R gene is closely associated with obesity as it regulates how quickly a person feels full while eating. If a person never feels full, they’re like to continue eating until they become physically uncomfortable. A program for someone with the MC4R gene might include strategies for eating more slowly to allow their brain time to register satiety. It may also focus more on portion control and strategies for increasing water intake throughout the day. Other genes factored into our program include the FTO gene, which is considered the “fat gene” as it influences how a person metabolizes fat; the DRD2 gene, which plays a role in regulating appetite and cravings; and the BDNF gene, which influences a person’s psychological response to exercise.
“My Inspirator, Maddie, has been such a fantastic cheerleader and motivator. She is great about helping me think about challenging but achievable goals. Everything is different now. Exercise is a priority. Food choices are made consciously.”
Amanda, Newtopia participant
Social determinants of health (SDOH). Research has found that “75-80% of health outcomes are directly related to SDOH.” SDOH are those non-medical factors like income, education, employment, housing, and social networks. Newtopia works with the employer or health plan to identify employee populations at risk, such as low-paying positions or positions with high levels of stress or isolation. These factors are incorporated into each participant’s program and help Inspirators create strategies to overcome these constraints. For example, Inspirators can help someone who lives in an area without access to healthy food learn how to make healthier meals with the food they do have available.
“I am more diligent in my meal planning and getting the fruits and veggies in my diet and removing the junk food. I’m more conscious of portion control and have increased the amount of time that I am walking.”
Kathleen, Newtopia participant
Goals. Each person’s reasons for wanting to get healthier are unique to them. It may be about having more energy, reducing medication, looking better, or wanting to live longer. In many cases, it’s a combination of several factors. Newtopia has found that goals are vital for success in change. Inspirators work with participants to set goals to drive sustainable change and improved habits.
“I feel way better, my knees don’t hurt. I lost weight. I feel beautiful. I can wear things that I couldn’t wear before. I love the positive compliments from people. I love how I have more energy. I am so proud of myself.”
Nelsie, Newtopia participant
Tiny habits become lasting habit changes. According to BJ Fogg, a behavior happens when three things come together at the same moment. There’s motivation to do the behavior, there’s the ability to do the behavior, and there’s a prompt. And when those three things come together at the same moment, we do the behavior, and it can become a habit. Understanding where the individual is at within these stages helps us better personalize the program. For example, if a person knows they need to be healthier, they may choose to participate but lack confidence that they will succeed. A program focusing on small, early wins can build confidence and motivation to keep going.
“It has become a lifestyle for me. I feel healthier, my energy levels are higher, and I am making healthy food choices.”
Nick, Newtopia Participant
Baseline health. Much of our ability to change relies on certain pre-exiting factors. These include nutritional knowledge, current weight, activity level, medications, ailments, family history, and mental health. Understanding these baseline health factors helps to inform a more successful program. Inspirators can develop strategic recommendations and guidance for each of their participants. For example, Newtopia uses PROMIS® (Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System), which is a tool that helps evaluate and monitor physical, mental, and social health. Measurements include things like resilience, mood, anxiety, sleep, and energy level. Based on the participant’s scores, Inspirators can modify the program to help tailor recommendations to current areas of concern.
“My Inspirator, Hannah, is great. She’s amazingly attentive to what I say and she’s knowledgeable on what advice or guidance to give me. I’ve learned a great deal from her regarding nutrition and mental well-being, sleep awareness, energy levels, and many other topics.”
Shelli, Newtopia participant
Achieving long-term health improvements requires a “whole-person” approach that includes all factors that make up the individual. Using these seven key foundational components helps Newtopia create a more effective habit change program hyper-personalized for every participant. It’s a win-win for employers, health plans, and employees alike.
Learn more about personalized habit change and how it can impact your population here.