The health app startup is attempting to use technology to make you better understand what your body is saying to you.
In the future, founder Aza Raskin hopes your phone will tell you you’re getting sick before you even know it.
Have you ever forgotten to take your antibiotics? Started a diet only to find yourself hitting the ice cream hard? Seen a loved one fail to get the medical support they require? Have you ever wondered why?
According to Massive Health founder Aza Raskin, one of the biggest flaws in our health care system isn’t procedural or scientific, it has to do with design. “Let me give an analogy,” Raskin says. “If you can’t program a VCR, whose fault is that: yours, or the guy that designed the VCR? If one out of five people don’t finish their antibiotics course, whose fault is it? Is that the fault of people, or the fault of the design of our intervention?”
Raskin–who happens to be the son of the late computer interface expert Jef Raskin, credited with starting the Macintosh project at Apple in the late ‘70s–says the goal of Massive Health is “to make health human while pushing forward design of health for all.” Their first consumer product, an iPhone app called The Eatery, allows users to take photographs of their food, rate the eating habits of others, and track their own behavioral eating trends with the help of some serious social accountability. Since launching around six months ago, Eatery users have captured pictures of half a million foods, which have been rated 8 million times. That kind of data may prove to be invaluable. “Peter Norvig, the guy that leads research at Google, says that for every order of magnitude increase in data size, it obliterates all changes that you can make in algorithms,” Raskin says. “When we look at the health care space, most studies are done with 10 people. Sometimes hundreds. Rarely thousands. Almost never tens of thousands. And once in a generation, you might get a 100,000 person study. With the Eatery, we blew past those numbers in the first week.”
In fact, The Eatery now has hard data about how people eat in 50 nations across the world, and their first report is chock full of fascinating facts: Users who eat breakfast are 12.3% healthier throughout the day. Simply choosing a diet–whether pescaterian, vegan, or something in between–increases healthy choices by 16%. Sunday is the unhealthiest day of the week. “This was an experiment, and it turned out to be an incredibly successful one,” Raskin says. “It gives us the world’s largest database of behavioral eating, which lets us go tackle the next sets of problems that we start to be really interested in. Because all that data is useless if you don’t turn it into meaning, and meaning is useless unless you help somebody act upon it.”
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