The Social Determinants of Health Live at CES 2017

While digital health is a fast-growing category at CES 2017 this week in Las Vegas, there are hundreds of companies exhibiting at the mega-conference that impact peoples' health and well-being that don’t fall under the "health" or "healthcare" category.

But to a significant extent, these organizations can intimately impact and help to shape a person's health. As much as 60% of human health is determined by what we wonks in public health call the social determinants of health, or SDOH for short. Some of the SDOHs emerging around CES 2017 beyond pure health plays cover nutrition, safety, good and safe sex, air quality, and clean water. Here are some examples with which I've connected this week...

Nutrition:  In this era of expanding obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease, food is a form of medicine. The food-tech connection is a growing phenomenon, so there are many healthy food-related techs featured at CES 2017. The Terraillon company is well-known for their food scales (a leader in "metrology"), and now the company has evolved a connected health ecosystem including the Nutrismart connected kitchen scale that can analyze nutrition with the Scio chip; a bathroom scale, the R-link; and new for this CES, Homni, a smart lamp devoted to good sleep. Thus, Terraillon is going beyond the Internet of Food into the larger platform of the Internet of Healthy Things via the company’s core knowledge of nutrition. The SDOH Lens: Terraillon recognizes that whole health isn't just about nutrition, which is necessary but not sufficient for a balanced approach to total wellness. Good sleep, activity, and a healthy weight all work together with healthy eating to help people make health. Furthermore, the Terraillon Wellness Coach app ties these streams of healthy living activities together, streamlining a consumer's life and making healthy living easier. 

Safety: People look to engage with all kinds of organizations for their health, and one such industry beyond healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and hospitals is insurance. Liberty Mutual, the insurer, is attending CES 2017, and announced a new app called HighwayHero that helps people track their driving statistics (think: hard stops, texting on a phone while driving, routes used, and speed). The program keeps a longitudinal record which is fed into an algorithm that then coaches the driver on the quality of their driving -- data that can feed into discounts for auto insurance premiums. This is all carrot, no stick: the company won't punish the driver for what may emerge as risky habits (like texting while driving), but the good driver can receive up to a 25% discount on their premium depending on their state of residence (remember, this is a highly-regulated business on a state-by-state basis). Watch for Liberty Mutual to innovate new digital products through Solaria Labs, their incubator. The SDOH lens: Liberty Mutual's program bolsters financial wellness (via the premium discount), improves driving safety (lowering risk of fatality or crash due to poor driving, especially attributable to use of phone when operating a vehicle), lowers stress through greater feeling of driving competence, and supports social sharing of the program (initiating a virtuous circle expanding better driving in a community). 

Sex life:  At Health Populi, we are all about health and wellness, broadly speaking, so let’s talk about sex in that context. The company OhMiBod has previously exhibited at CES and we've been tracking their developments over time. This year at CES, the company (which describes itself as being in the intimacy products business and a "sex tech innovator"), launched a software development kit (SDK) for wearable remote control vibrators. This allows third parties to integrate their programs with the product: think Tinder or Grindr adding new features to their apps, for example. The SDOH lens: WebMD has documented ten surprising health impacts of a healthy sex life.  Even the National Health Service (NHS), Britain's single payor health plan, has a portal devoted to Good Sex under its Live Well program. Suffice it to say intimacy and social connectedness are crucial sources of a healthy, satisfying life. 

Air quality: Radon exposure kills some 21,000 Americans each year, six times the mortality rate of deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning and house fires combined. At CES 2017, Airthings demonstrated the Wave, a smart radon detector that within 24 hours of installation gauges radon levels. The companion app tracks radon, temperature and humidity levels in the home and offers email notifications when radon levels are too high. The SDOH lens: Airthings markets the Wave with the tagline, "Smart radon detector for a healthier life." Air quality and safe home environments contribute to peoples' overall health and peace-of-mind. Radon is an invisible gas, making a device like this a stress-reliever and risk-manager for the homeowner and parent. Being able to document the tracked radon levels over time can also benefit the homeowner looking to sell, as radon is a factor taken seriously by prospective homebuyers; this is part of the financial wellness SDOH. 

Clean water:  There is a growing list of smart refrigerators with water filtration systems featured at CES. However, not every household can afford such a large capital spend, so lighter, nimbler solutions are important in the clean water marketspace. At CES 2017, RayVio featured the company's UV LED technology which addresses water-related disease prevention. Ellie is a sterilizing pod, useful for cleaning baby bottles and purifying water. Last year, the CTO of RayVio called the company's core technology as "the microchip of health" in The Huffington Post. The SDOH lens: The Flint water crisis raised health citizens' consciousness about the importance of clean water for individual and public health. The World Health Organization deems water a basic human health building block. Products like RayVio and others addressing this need are key players in the social determinants of health.

These five diverse examples demonstrate that the CES isn't just about the slickest shiny new thing for entertainment -- although entertainment clearly helps us de-stress and savor life, factors that also drive our well-being. But looking beyond the strictly-defined digital health companies at the meeting, CES 2017 demonstrates that, thinking broadly the way real people do in daily living, health and wellness can be found all around CES 2017.

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