Health Behavior Must Be Fixed says Esther Dyson

MIT Technology Review recently interviewed Esther Dyson, a former reporter and WallStreet Analyst, who intends to solve problems in health behavior. One of the problems, ‘the high rate of self-inflicted illness from bad diet and too little exercise’ is especially critical. Last March, Dyson published a manifesto with the idea to create a health challenge among U.S cities which would use various statistics in order to crown the city that improved the most, healthwise.

Dyson has already invested in over 27 health startups as a part of her health initiative. Most of the startups utilize some form of technology in order to grant users better control over their own health.

“Investor Esther Dyson is a former reporter and Wall Street analyst who has set out to tackle what she calls “the most interesting unsolved problems in health care and human behavior.” Top among them is the high rate of self-inflicted illness from bad diet and too little exercise.”

“In March, Dyson released a manifesto describing new idea: create a challenge among small U.S. cities to see which can most improve its health, measured by factors like weight, blood pressure, and sick days. The effort, she says, will be propelled by hard data on the best prevention practices, and aims to find ways to turn good health into a profit-making strategy.”

“It’s a long-term project, and one that’s still looking for a ‘benevolent but ultimately profit-driven billionaire’ or patron to back it, she says. But Dyson has already laid some of the groundwork by investing in 27 health startups, many of which are trying to use technology to bring individuals new insights into their own health, such as consumer-genetics company 23andMe and health-answers site HealthTap.”

“MIT Technology Review asked Dyson by about her plans.”

“Why are you involved in disease prevention?”

“Because I hate seeing stupidity. And it’s colossal stupidity that people aren’t healthier, because we know how to do it.”

“What’s the big idea that you have to help?”

“I just founded something called HICcup, which stands for Health Initiative Coördinating Council. It’s my main job now. The goal is to coördinate five or six communities that will compete in a contest to be the most improved health community over five or 10 years.

The fundamental premise is that a single health intervention has a low degree of virality—they don’t catch on. If you start with a diabetes intervention program, the impact peters out. But if you do multiple things, they reinforce one another. You need the bike path, a diabetes program, and maybe a bunch of quantified-self tools. If you have a critical density of these things interacting, they are likely to have a multiplied effect. We want to prove that, so other people will copy it, and make money doing it.”image

Read the rest of the interview here.

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