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Persuading People to be Healthy: Thoughts from a Healthspottr Innovation Salon on Microtargeting

Jan 24, 2014, 8:00 AM, Posted by Lori Melichar

Lori Melichar, director Lori Melichar, director

If we're going to create a culture of health in this country, then we need to re-examine our influence strategies. In other words: We need to get better at delivering the exact right message or intervention that is most likely to get someone to take action that improves their health, their family or friends' health or the healthiness of their community. And that means we need to get better at microtargeting — applying the vast amounts of data available about people's habits and preferences to identify who is most persuadable.

I recently co-hosted an RWJF-funded Healthspottr Innovation Salon focused on the subject of microtargeting, where I met Ricky Gonzales of Enroll America and Erek Dyskant of BlueLabs, both of whom were on the Obama campaign's data analytics team. They talked about how they used microtargeting during the campaign and how those innovations may apply to health, something you can read more about in articles from The New York Times, Mother Jones, and the Wall Street Journal, among other sources. When I observed that several approaches they described might have applications for health and health care, Dyskant said, "Influencing people to make healthy decisions is much harder than getting someone to vote in a single election."

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Spurring Open Source Health Innovation

Nov 21, 2013, 3:00 PM, Posted by Lori Melichar

Lori Melichar, director Lori Melichar, director

I recently learned to Code… in a Day.

Why, you might ask, would a labor economist at a health foundation want to acquire programming skills that didn’t relate to statistical analysis? Well, for one thing, I was curious—I wanted to understand the magic that turns letters and numbers into apps with the power to make our lives easier, and our health better. And as a program officer tasked with funding transformative innovations, I wanted to gain perspective on the world of apps, mHealth and the culture of innovation associated with the Silicon Valley tech scene.

To be clear, here at Pioneer, we’re interested in innovations of all shapes in sizes—not just those that are technical in nature. We’ll take a low-tech approach that truly disrupts business-as-usual over a high-tech incremental improvement any day of the week. That said, considering the volume of proposals we receive that involve creating an app or online platform of some kind, it seemed like boosting my literacy in this area couldn’t hurt. (Though I’m fortunate to have colleagues like Steve Downs, the Foundation’s Chief Technology and Information Officer, to fill in gaps in my technical expertise.)

So I learned to code in a day, and I left the class with an app of my own creation. Even more valuable, I learned about developers’ habits and culture…“the developers’ code,” if you will.  And I saw a lot that I’d like to emulate.

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Introducing the Pitch Day Finalists: Rapid Evaluation of Apps

Oct 3, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Bianca Frogner, health economist and assistant professor at George Washington University Bianca Frogner, health economist and assistant professor at George Washington University

Bianca Frogner, PhD, has a vision for a rigorous evaluation system that allows patients and providers to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to the over 40,000 medical and health apps on the market. She was one of eight finalists we invited to pitch ideas live and in person at the first-ever Pioneer Pitch Day. Read Dr. Frogner's 1,000-character proposal below and join the discussion on Twitter at #pioneerpitch.

Dr. Frogner is a health economist and an assistant professor at George Washington University's School of Public Health and Health Services. You can connect with her on Twitter at @biancafrogner.

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What's Next Health: A New World for Changing Health Behavior

Jul 8, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Tracy Orleans

tracy_orleans_ Senior Scientist Tracy Orleans

Each month, What’s Next Health talks with leading thinkers about the future of health and health care. Recently, we talked with Jake Porway, founder of DataKind about Big Data in service of humanity. In this post, RWJF's Senior Scientist Tracy Orleans reflects on Jake's visit to the Foundation.

How is it that Edna St. Vincent Millay was able to describe so eloquently the magic and potential of big data in 1939? This favorite poem has been hanging above my desk for years:

”Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts . . . they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun; but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric.”

As I listened to Jake Porway, founder of DataKind, talk passionately during his recent visit about the many ways big data could be harnessed for social good, I was inspired and energized. It was an “aha” moment.

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Turning Disconnects Into Opportunities

Jun 28, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Wendy Yallowitz

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During my time as a social worker working with our most vulnerable older Americans, I saw firsthand just how much skilled nursing facilities need to do every day to care for our loved ones. Providing that care is always rewarding, but never easy. Residents come and go, and their care needs change daily. Beds go unfilled. Activities go unattended. Food goes uneaten.

While concentrating on providing care to this vulnerable population, we miss out on an opportunity to easily help so many other vulnerable Americans. Every year, nursing facilities let millions of dollars’ worth of medicine that many low-income patients desperately need go to waste.

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