Resolutions Are SO 2011

If the end of the year is the time to make resolutions, then the New Year is the time to implement them, especially when it comes to our health. The New Year symbolizes a fresh start, and we’re all more motivated than usual—at least in our minds. The typical resolution cycle shows a steep incline in health-related goals during the first quarter of the year, followed by a rapid decline soon thereafter.

Nestlé conducted a national survey in December that showed that New Year’s resolutions among Americans are low, at about a third. But what remains high are health concerns: according to survey results, a whopping 75% of American adults plan to lose weight in 2012, according to the Sacramento Bee.

People do a lot of talking about what they plan to accomplish in the New Year, but actual “doing” is what takes real effort. In fact, 78% of people break their resolutions because their goals are too aspirational and lofty. Overly ambitious goals thwart the will to stick to and stay with a game plan. Real change takes planning—if our goals are broken down into bite-size nuggets and are properly thought out, we’ll be a lot more successful at making a long-term commitment. This is particularly true as it pertains to health and wellness plans.

The New Year is also a time for planning for healthcare professionals, who have become key members of complex businesses, like integrated delivery systems and payer-provider organizations. To these healthcare professionals, 2012 planning will likely include two key areas: 1) becoming more efficient in deployment of health resources, which may impact how widely new medications and procedures are used; and 2) implementation of technologies like electronic health record systems (EHRs). In fact, a recent study with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island showed that EHRs have led to improved patient outcomes, says iHealthBeat.

Measuring success against resolutions.

Successful health-related programs can help people overcome struggles and reach their goals in incremental steps. They address the need for very targeted and specific daily goals, providing continuous motivation and short-term rewards that keep resolution-makers on track.

New Year’s resolutions are annual goals—and like all goals, they are best reached when they are measurable. There should be well- defined milestones during the year when metrics can be checked toward achievement of those goals. Interestingly, the Forbes Magazine Blog (Giovanni Rodriguez) notes that resolutions are more measurable than ever in the digital media age, and in the era of “big data.”

In terms of health-related New Year’s resolutions, the metrics are about milestones, activities, and outcomes.

Milestones are what peak right after the New Year: first come the major milestones like joining health clubs, checkups with physicians or dieticians, or enrollment in smoking-cessation programs. These significant first steps must be achieved early and according to a schedule.

Then come the activities, which must happen continually: visits to the gym, minutes of exercise, adjusted calorie intake, reduced cigarette counts. These can be tracked in journals, diaries, and counters, and there are more digital trackers than ever before: a mere Google search of “diet tracker” returns scores of utilities and apps. One can also join communities, personal and digital, for encouragement and reinforcement by peers. MyFitnessPal is one example of a digital app that includes calorie counters, food and exercise diaries, and sharing communities. Many major employers now sponsor such programs, and metrics are present as never before.

Finally, the outcomes are what make the resolutions worthwhile: how are your health metrics improving? Pounds lost, trends in biometrics, and improved cardiovascular and respiratory health. These results won’t be seen until later in 2012, but the rewards will only come with efforts that start now.

Tags: digital, health
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