Even those of us who aren’t tech-savvy will have noticed there’s a proliferation of apps, services and hardware on the market at the moment that have been created to enable us to collect more data about ourselves than ever before.
From a Fitbit that you strap to your wrist to tell you more about your steps or the Spire that hooks onto your clothes and assesses your stress levels, through to apps designed to teach you mindfulness or wearable devices to track your blood pressure.
Whether you call the movement ‘quantified self’, ‘mHealth’ or just see it as a natural progression as the worlds of tech and wellbeing collide, it’s here to stay. And you can track anything and everything all from your wrist or your phone. But is all of this data really making us fitter, happier and healthier?
Sure when you first buy a fitness tracker and see your points or steps climb up throughout the day, you feel a sense of achievement. The same goes for a sleep app, a calorie counter or maybe one that rewards you when your breathing slows down.
But that novelty wears off quickly. And many of us are left with stacks of data, but little guidance into what to do next. That’s mostly because there are no clear goals and no added insights to inform us about how we could do better. We’re often just rewarded with a virtual medal because we smashed an arbitrary ‘points goal’—it’s hardly going to keep us sticking around for very long, is it?
The fitness tracking industry has come under fire only this past week for similar reasons, as research concludes a fitness tracker and accompanying app, when added to diet and exercise advice, does a worse job than advice alone to help people with long term weight loss. Although there are many reasons why that could be the case, we think a huge part of it is that people just don’t know what to do with all the new data they have access to. Knowing that you walked 10,000 steps today might sound impressive. But that target doesn’t work for everyone. Will you work to improve that number? Should the target vary by baseline fitness, weight or age? The truth is, many modern day apps and devices aren’t built to answer these important questions.
Data is meaningless unless you’re collecting the right kind, using it in the right ways and tracking it over time. Because there are rarely any quick-fixes and immediate results, just long-term data collection that raises awareness, builds a picture and provides insight on trends and patterns.
This is why we feel MyFampal stands out, because it’s not about gamifying your family’s behavior or a child’s anxiety. We know that’s not right when we’re dealing with such an important issue. Instead, we’re focused on collecting the right kinds of data from our scientifically robust questionnaires, making well-informed recommendations and then supporting families collect that data over time to get the best insights on pre-empting and preventing more serious mental health issues.