do we really know what we want when it comes to health?

November 1, 2011

in behavior change,design,health communication,wellness

maybe steve jobs was right. he (in)famously said you can’t design for customers because they don’t know what they want. or if you design for them, they’ll want something new by the time you have your product built.

i’m wondering if there’s something to this, particularly when it comes to health. i was struck by this idea while reading about the brain-dead design of myplate. myplate is the government’s latest visual representation of what we should eat. and it’s pretty simple. it shows you proportionally what you should eat from which category.

but researchers have come out against it, saying myplate needs to include more. more details. more data. more guidance. just more. that’s what the people-on-the-street say in the video below, too.

they say my plate’s “not clear enough.” “maybe more details on charts” would ensure we ate our five fruits and veggies. maybe myplate should offer “numbers, data…how many servings we can have.”

but do we really want more data? we’re not so good with the data we have. those interviewed didn’t know the number of food groups. granted, some of  their recall error is the residue of previous food pyramids, but we’re stumped by too much data. we’re investigating simplifying nutrition labels and energy bills to make it easier, not more complex.

the current myplate is an image i can hold in my mind’s eye and work with. i may eat canned peaches in light syrup—not as good as raw fruit, of course—but i’d be eating fruit, because i know fruit makes up a big part of this plate. would statistics or portion sizes or any other data be necessary to make this requirement clearer?

maybe the government was following in jobs’ venerable footsteps. they decided we don’t know what we want. they just gave it to us. perhaps that’s an approach we should be considering more, not less.

we’ll be talking about giving employees what they need versus what they want during november’s cohealth tweet chat. join us on wednesday, november 16 at noon on twitter.

Untitled from Cliff Kuang on Vimeo.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob Merberg November 1, 2011 at 8:37 am

Simplicity is good.


Greg Matthews November 1, 2011 at 7:31 pm

The CEO of Humana has been talking about this for a long time … albeit specifically around the cost of care. If you ask health insurance peeps what they want, I can assure you that they’ll say “unlimited free services.” It’s not much better for health consumers … which means that we have to ask really different questions … like “what is your favorite leisure activity?” “What are you passionate about?” And then try to build health INTO those things. Simple concept, but difficult to execute …


fran November 2, 2011 at 2:52 pm

there’s been some really interesting dialogue around gamification and how we should “healthify” games not gamify health. the idea of collapsing fun + health into one unit based on what we like to do seems such commonsense, yet it’s really tough, and not one that works on all levels. i mean, if my favorite leisure activity is sitting on my butt watching project runway…how would you build health into that?



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