The first day of our new innovation programme followed the theme “Behavioural Changes Toward Better Health”. The purpose of gathering international keynote speakers and health professionals, was to take quick action from the vast knowledge and experience in the room.
Mats Börjesson – Physical Activity for Future Sustainability
The first Keynote speaker was Mats Börjesson, Professor Sahlgrenska Academy at Gothenburg University. He is specialised in internal medicine, and researches on topics such as physical activity and health and sports medicine. Also, Mats is the medical expert of the Swedish TV show Bästa Träningen.
The subject of Mats' lecture was “Physical Activity for Future Sustainability”. The first take was questioning why sustainability usually focuses on the planet, but not on the people on the planet. Mats pointed out that 50% of overall health depends on our behaviour. Not our genetics, environment or access to medical care, that covers the other 50%. Mats also pointed out that Swedes in general are far less active than average Europeans. But even if this is true, do we over or underestimate when someone asks us how much we exercise? Think about it.
We do know that a middle-aged person, man or woman, exercises too little. And we know that when gaining weight in combination with low exercise, the hazard ratio towards mortality gets higher. The ratio of “too low fitness level” has increased from 27 - 46% from 1995 to 2017. And we’re expected to be even less active in the future.
Also for our youths -16 year olds - there is a study with a time span from 1987 to 2007, that says that both boys and girls have worse fitness levels and weaker muscles. Question – what games are they playing, how are they doing sports? Are they exercising? And who is actually doing different sport activities? Obviously, there are systemic and cardiac benefits to gain if we do exercise.
Exercise also affects stress, cognition, memory, learning, mental health and workability. This would suggest that a healthy and “happy” person would be more profitable in the workplace. It’s also a reason to invest in open, inspiring, diverse and healthy culture.
There is a systematic review going on, finding out the effects of physical activity on prescription, FYSS 2017, co-founded by the Health Programme of the European Union.
Mats ends by pointing out the possibility to use “design thinking” in order to increase physical activity. He gave the example of Lausanne Airport, where you connect your smartphone to a training bike that generates the energy to charge your phone. A good example of how to inspire a change in behaviour, which is needed for a future sustainable health. And the obvious conclusion is that we need a behavioural change of physical activity for a sustainable health.
Paul Chadwick – Factors Affecting Behavioural Change
The common denominator continues and the second keynote titled “Factors Affecting Behavioural Change” is a live online lecture by Dr Paul Chadwick. He’s the Deputy Director of University College of London – Centre for Behavioural Change.
The lecture is a systematic overview of a model used to close the gap between Behavioural Scientists and Policymakers. It goes through how to manage and govern information and data to what extent of transparency, and aims to have an impact on behaviour. In this case physical activity. We are introduced to a model of a Behaviour Change Wheel, consisting of nine interventions functions, including one or more behavioural change techniques, and seven policy categories that could support these interventions.
The model, beside the wheel, is also based on three sub-categories for behaviour – Capability, Motivation and Opportunity. These can be divided into further sub-categories, and finally applied to the wheel model. The sub-categories can also be divided into charts for diagnosis and expansion of the wheel model for policy making.
All in all a very interesting set of tools to be used to navigate in the world of behavioural change. A world that has to be experienced, scrutinised and used to fully understand its potential. But nevertheless, a tool to be used.
Daniel Arvidsson – Can tech help us get more active?
The third Keynote speaker, Daniel Arvidsson, Nutritionist and Associate Professor, Centre for Health and Performance, Dept of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science, Gothenburg University, introduced us to how to use data to help us become more active.
Daniel used a conceptual model for tech solutions and behaviour change. Or rather behaviour monitoring and support as the movement that transports the status from “assessment of behaviour” to “behaviour change” to the next level “assessment of behaviour”.
We were introduced to how data can be captured and how to evaluate methods for that purpose. An example: Steps measurements on smartphones could give various results depending on where you keep the smartphone during the measurement period. It’s easy to get invalid or deviating data if you compare data from when the phone has been carried in a trouser pocket, jacket or even a backpack.
That’s true to all sensor based measurement, but of course, the more crucial the data is, the more situations have been evaluated with recommendations to follow. Accurate data is important if you want to be able to rely on it, but also in order to help you understand the data, so that you can change your behaviour if you need to.
A common reflection of today is that we tend to get more data out of algorithms than we can process and put into context on our own.
Finally, Daniel presented a study that showed how well different behavioural change techniques work. Best was to provide feedback on performance. Second, prompting self-monitoring of behaviour. Then prompt specific goal setting, plan social support or social change, provide continguent rewards, provide instructions and prompt practice. If you combine these sets, you can get different results, of course. The final advice was to even more marry research at universities with business development in a yin-yang relationship, the perfect convergence.
Leo Stockfeldt – Commuting and health
The last keynote, “Commuting and health”, was held by Leo Stockfeldt, MD, PhD, Specialist in Occupational and Environmental Medicine Research, group leader of Environmental Medicine and Toxicology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital and University of Gothenburg.
Leo Stockfeldt stated that Air Pollution is the most important environmental risk factor. A far greater risk than water, sanitation and hand washing or occupational risk for that matter.
Air pollution is actually a greater risk factor than these combined, even when adding other risk factors such as most diseases and injuries. Sweden had an annual burden of 5,000 deaths a year in 2005, and air pollution is third on the scale of death reasons in the world, following high blood pressure and tobacco first and second hand smoking, 2018. But, and here is the point, physically active travel (walking, biking etc) is almost always much better for your health, and it’s better for other people’s health as well, since it decrease traffic accidents and air pollution. The level of these effects also depends on city planning.
The potential for positive effects is vast, Leo Stockfeldt states. And in the larger city areas a substantial part of the commuters could reach their job in 30 minutes or less by using a bike.
Leo Stockfeldt ends the lecture by pointing out that physically active travel can be a large part of physical activity, with large health benefits and co-benefits which can be affected by politics and infrastructure.
“It’s not a lack of knowledge – but a lack of implementation”. And that is also the perfect conclusive connection for the rest of this day.
The Keynote summary
The summary of the keynotes suggests that:
– We need a behavioural change of physical activity for a sustainable health.
– We have structural explanatory models that can be used in order to change physical activity behaviour.
– There are many methods to collect health activity data on a personal level that can be assessed, aggregated and processed by machine learning or AI in order to be presented, monitored and support behavioural change. And these could be applied to physical activity as well.
– There are also many risk factors affecting our wellbeing such as air pollution, but also injuries and diseases.
– There is a greater potential for a better health if we simply change our behaviour, increase our physical activity and design our habits, working lives, transport and even cities to a more sustainable level.
So what are we waiting for?