In changing behavior, ‘wanna’ works better than ‘hafta’

click to enlargeThe proliferation of apps, tracking programs and devices that promise to change your life through Quantifying Yourself and lead you to the New Jerusalem of fitness and health is fascinating in number and variety. Yet why do some apps and programs do their job of changing behavior–and others, equally well-intentioned, do not? It’s all about ‘wanna’ vs. ‘hafta.’  Tracking your caloric consumption quickly turns into a ‘hafta’ drag for most (MyFitnessPal), but if you plug into a lively online community (Fitocracy), make the app easy to use and the changes gradual, plus forgive a few lapses, the same activity can start feeling rewarding and ‘wanna’. It’s all about personal autonomy, reward and control. It may be carrots rather than carrot cake, but you’re doing the choosing. Must reading for those working to develop corporate wellness programs, sticky apps and engage users. Why Behavior Change Apps Fail To Change Behavior (TechCrunch) Hat tip to reader Sandeep Pulim, MD via LinkedIn.

Related: Our April discussion of employee wellness programs, Employee wellness: Carrot? Stick? Or something else?

An example of simplification helping to increase positive behavior–and perhaps outcomes–is the recent study of the Center for Connected Health’s BP Connect program. Mobile users took their blood pressure more often than the telephone hub/device users; these older users (median age 61!) found the mobile version both easier and more convenient in portability. Overall BP scores went down moderately. Connected Health Study Finds Mobile Health Improves Patient Engagement (HIT Consultant)

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