Like Brian Berchtold of Portland, most of us know what it takes to be healthy. It’s the follow-through that’s tricky. In college, Berchtold was fit and rowed crew. But after entering the working world, with too many meetings, too many flights and too many power lunches, he packed on the pounds. Then he joined a company called Hubbub Health, a technology-driven wellness playground — mobile and online — that uses social circles and the love of the game to inspire employees, their families and their friends to get moving and live healthy.
Berchtold decided to try it. He wasn’t going to run a marathon — just drink more water and eat something orange, two beginner challenges in the hubbubhealth game. Two years later, he’s lost 42 pounds, dropped four medications and ran 11 marathons in 11 months.
Hubbub is one of the interactive elements of a new initiative, called Eastside ACTIVE, to create a stronger “healthy living” culture on the Eastside. Of the founding partners, Bellevue Chamber of Commerce is the messenger and Hubbub hosts the interactive tool, while Medical Center and Regence BlueShield Overlake Hospital offer their expertise. Eastside ACTIVE will celebrate its first anniversary in March.
“The Eastside ACTIVE Initiative is a cooperative effort to raise the conversation around health and wellness for employers who have health care costs as top of mind and are adopting programs to promote wellness to ultimately reduce costs, with the hubbub platform being an engagement tool and resource,” said Sara Garner, vice president of the Bellevue Chamber.
“People are participating in Eastside ACTIVE through Hubbub Health, but are also participating by getting the information on health, wellness and health care reform through Bellevue Chamber programs and communications, such as the Eastside ACTIVE e-newsletter, social media, Bellevue Chamber Voice of Business newsletter and upcoming webinars and seminars. We aim to help employers take Action to reduce Costs and Turnover and Increase Vitality of Employees (ACTIVE)!”
Good health is good for business. On average, employers spend $13,000 per employee per year on total direct and indirect health-related costs, according to a 2009 study. Health-related productivity costs are 2.3 times the direct medical costs alone. A healthy workforce is better for the bottom line and for the community, said Chris Gorey, vice president of sales at Regence BlueShield.
“One of the strongest drivers of prosperity is the vibrancy of the workforce,” said Gorey. “If the workforce is a strong, healthy, contributing workforce it is going to fuel economic development and growth and overall health of the community. … If people are physically healthy and mentally healthy, they can fuel the economic marketplace.”
The annual Spirit of Bellevue Run is the most public aspect of Eastside ACTIVE. Nearly 500 runners and walkers competed in the friendly second Annual Spirit of Bellevue 12K and 5K in August. Proceeds benefited scholarships for local students to attend college. Participants traveled from as far away as Virginia and Georgia to compete, and runners ranged in age from the single digits to almost 90 years old. More than 200 volunteers cheered them on, including Boy Scouts, members of the U.S. Army and running teams from the Lakeside Running Program and Glacier Peak High School.
In the months between Spirit of Bellevue Runs, participants log onto Hubbub to accept, create and complete health challenges on their way to earning levels and electronic badges. They can support friends and family through fist bumps and comments. It’s like a video game for your health. From March to August, 525 players participated in 26 challenges sponsored by the Bellevue Chamber: Participants walked 630 miles, drank 102 gallons of water and completed 200 hours of exercise.
Individual effort can be harnessed for the collective good. Hubbub periodically hosts challenges that raise money for special causes. In a response to the Boston Marathon bombing, Hubbub launched the Run for Boston Challenge — run for at least one block and Hubbub donated $5 on your behalf to One Fund Boston. The effort raised nearly $2,000. The challenge is especially meaningful to Berchtold, who ran in the Boston Marathon and was 100 feet from the explosion when it happened.
The Run for Boston Challenge “showed that we are human,” said Berchtold. “I think that is why I and others are using this platform. Here is a product and a really good experience. But not only that, these are really good people.”
Businesses help build a healthy living culture by thinking outside the box. Overlake Medical Center is one such organization. “We offer ‘mammogram parties’ where a group of women can schedule their annual exams together as a group,” said Kipepeo Brown, director of marketing and community outreach at Overlake. “We bring the wine and cheese or the tea and cookies, and there is a built-in social aspect and support network for an otherwise less-than-preferred annual appointment.”
Health, ultimately, is each person’s responsibility. Inspiring individuals to take personal action and then collectively create a healthy culture is the biggest challenge. “I think everyone wants to be healthy and generally knows the basic fundamental things they should do, but it is hard. It requires some discipline and commitment. … They start feeling better,” said Gorey. “That first step for that one person can inspire others. … The challenge is how can we create that environment that can inspire that first step? Inertia is a strong force. If we can break free from inertia and take that first step, then it’s easier to take that second step.”
Hubbub Health is a mobile and online playground that uses the love of the game to inspire people to get and stay healthy. Hubbub’s innovative employer wellness solution provides a lively, social and flexible way to make sustainable changes for the better. By connecting people with their co-workers, friends and families, hubbub challenges them to make — and keep — healthy choices together. Let’s play: hubbubhealth.com
Founded March 2013
Partners Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, Hubbub Health, Overlake Hospital Medical Center and Regence BlueShield
Mission “We aim to help employers take Action to reduce Costs and Turnover and Increase Vitality of Employees (ACTIVE)!”
More info bellevuechamber.org