A friend of mine in White River Junction, Vermont, forwarded me an e-Health alert about the importance of recognizing the symptoms of stroke and acting quickly on that information. It was one of those unsolicited, forward-it-to-10-other-people emails that make sense if you’re passionate about the subject. For personal and professional reasons, I want to pass it on.
The adverse consequences associated with poor Health are well chronicled, from overweight and obesity to diabetes and arthritis. The Nation’s economic downturn hasn’t helped the situation at all. In fact, according to data from an American Heart Association poll, nearly 60 percent of those surveyed admitted that the economy has adversely affected their ability to take care of their Health. Over a third of respondents reported skipping their preventive care appointments, not taking medications as prescribed, or foregoing dental visits, while a quarter of those surveyed reported that they had canceled gym memberships within the past 6 months.
In 2010 the United Nations Environment Programme found that more people died worldwide because of contaminated and polluted water than were killed by all forms of violence, including wars. This shocking finding reflects the fact that nearly a billion people throughout the world—about one in eight—lack access to clean drinking water.
There is a new player on the behavioral Health scene — and its name is choice architecture. In Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein explore how decisions are influenced through choice architecture — or as they describe it, “the careful design of the environments in which people make choices.” Choice architects are anyone who directly or indirectly influences the decision making process of others. In decision making, nearly all factors — social, environmental, and individual — matter, giving choice architects considerable influence to “nudge” decision makers in directions that will make their lives better.