The intersection of health and gaming

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By offering perks such as restaurant and gym membership discounts as members hit their health goals — such as losing weight or lowering cholesterol levels — AIA is taking a new way in motivating its clients to be healthy. Illustration by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Last year, a friend had a bet with his batchmates: they have to meet their fitness goals by the end of the year (lose 20 pounds, have a firmer stomach, etc.) or pay up ₱30,000. Gym memberships were signed up for, diet plans mapped out, and routines were kept in check. Barring serious health risks, most of them have stayed faithful to their workout routines by the end of the year — and met their fitness objectives. The idea is, if you have to pay a huge amount of your hard-earned money, “you’ll think twice before getting lazy.”

The beginning of the year is always a good time to set goals or re-evaluate priorities. “New year’s resolutions” vanish by the time January winnows down, setting up a reward to do something might just be a good motivation to follow through on your plans. When there is a golden carrot dangling at the end of a stick, we’re more likely to be driven to run after it. But when it’s something as difficult as staying fit or committing to a diet, it might take something more daunting to threaten us into motion.

Good health is a top priority among Filipinos, but according to life insurance group AIA’s 2016 Healthy Living Index — a survey across their 15 markets in Asia Pacific, including the Philippines (locally, AIA is known as Philam Life) — it only remains as a goal and not something to be acted on.

beckham.jpg In 2017, AIA unveiled David Beckham as its ambassador for their "What's Your Why" campaign to unveil people's motivations for wanting a healthier life. Photo from AIA/OFFICIAL WEBSITE

“Across Asia, health is a priority, including Filipinos,” says Philam Life CEO Aibee Cantos. “But are they doing anything about it? The answer is no. In fact, [in] the healthy living survey, a question there was asked sa mga Filipinos, what is your health now compared to five years ago, one of the answers said, ‘My health now is worse than it was five years ago.’ Ano ibig sabihin nun? People say they want to be healthy, but they don’t do something about it.”

But Philam Life aims to influence and change behavior by becoming a link to their customer’s personal well-being.

Ang interaction ng client sa insurance company is always when something worse has happened,” says Cantos. “With us, since it’s about wellness, the interaction is much more frequent. What does that do to us? It makes the relationship between the customer and the company deeper. Kasi parati kayong nag-uusap. Kapag deeper na ‘yun.”

Philam Life’s parent group, AIA, carries “A Real Life Company” as a tagline. In many ways, Philam Life has transformed itself into a lifestyle product, no longer a cold, steely brand associated with mere finances or numbers.

“We want to focus on the living, so the emphasis is on building relationships on the whole life journey of our customers, not just end of life,” says Stuart Spencer, chief marketing officer of AIA.

"Game play focuses and controls our attention, taps into our innate strengths, thrills us utterly, and compels us to greater resilience in the attainment of more powerful and effective skills." - Dr. Bertalan Mesko

Influencing healthy behavior

Bringing insurance into the digital era means the company has to compete not just with insurance companies but with every other company their target customers are doing business with.

An “unorthodox” marketing approach (at least for an insurance company) was rolled out. AIA brought in David Beckham as a global ambassador to inspire “people everywhere live longer, healthier, better lives.” They’ve also partnered with the Tottenham Spurs to get kids into football. In the Philippines, Philam Life tapped celebrities Solenn Heusaff, Nico Bolzico, and Raymond Gutierrez as ambassadors for their “Live Better” campaign, which included a Facebook-released reality game show “Camp Live Better,” which had competitors complete fitness and wellness goals in a series of challenges.

“We need help, we need influencers,” says Spencer. “We need forces that can shape behaviors so that society wins, we win, and the customer wins.”

“We believe that the concentration on wellness to change behavior so that those incident rates of diabetes and hypertension and heart disease go down, that's in the best interest of the company, that's in the best interest of the consumer, and ultimately it's in the best interest of society,” he adds.

The core of the company’s advocacy is the Vitality app, which rewards users with reduced premium on their insurance, gym membership discounts, movie tickets, and other freebies as they achieve health and wellness goals.

“Let's say you lower your bad cholesterol, you lower your weight, let's say you improve body mass index,” says Spencer. “And you actually improve your blood pressure. We'll reward you by reducing your premium and provide you with other benefits. Whet her it's travel rewards or discounts on organic and healthy food at a supermarket. We will provide a day-to-day engagement tool through an app or through a desktop so you can measure, you can watch, you can manage how you are improving. So you are continuously able to be rewarded for changing your behavior.”

As the Vitality program targets a younger demographic as well, whose disposable income can be set aside to plan for the future, the company addresses a forward-looking outlook that can set you up for a comfortable retirement.

“For every 100 Filipinos na age 65 and above, dalawa lang dun ang [may] comfortable retirement,” says Cantos. “Kapag may sakit, pwede magpagamot, ‘pag may gustong puntahan, pwedeng puntahan, ‘pag gustong bumisita sa kamag-anak, welcome sila ... But [for] the 98 of the100, life is hard. Why? Because when they were very young, they didn’t think about saving or setting aside for their retirement.”

“Companies like us, we try to educate people and say you have to start early, but we’re not stopping in education alone. We’re saying you have to save early, protect yourself early, and these are the things that you can do,” Cantos adds.

CAMP LIVE BETTER.jpg This January, Philam Life tapped celebrities Solenn Heusaff, Nico Bolzico, and Raymond Gutierrez as ambassadors for their “Live Better” campaign, which included a Facebook-released reality game show “Camp Live Better,” which had competitors complete fitness and wellness goals in a series of challenges. Photo from PHILAM LIFE/FACEBOOK

Face-to-face interaction

Internally, the company has taken steps into bringing in health and life insurance into the digital age. Their agents are issued with tablets that contain AIA's interactive Point of Sale (iPoS), an app to minimize tedious paperwork, shorten business transactions, and manage client data. It even contains modules to train their agents on the go.

But this doesn’t mean that the company is foregoing face-to face interactions with clients. These tools only serve to bolster the service of their financial advisors. AIA recognizes the value of person-to-person interactions when it comes to health and finance, especially in Asia.

The company takes pride in training their agents well. AIA has the world’s largest members of the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), an elite association of finance professionals and is the standard for service that “demonstrate exceptional professional knowledge, strict ethical conduct, and outstanding client service.”

In 2017, Philam Life’s MDRT members have shown increase of 33 percent members from the previous year, and 86 percent in the last five years.

“We want to focus on the living, so the emphasis is on building relationships on the whole life journey of our customers, not just end of life.” - Stuart Spencer, AIA

The gamification of health

Learning to take better care of yourself shouldn’t be treated as a chore. But the gamification of health — from Fitbits, running apps, to activity trackers embedded on our smartphones — increases our motivation to stay fit. An app can post a map of your morning run on Twitter — do it on a regular basis and, unconsciously, it becomes a habit.

The gamification of healthcare isn’t new but it has become an industry buzzword in the recent years.

“Game play focuses and controls our attention, taps into our innate strengths, thrills us utterly, and compels us to greater resilience in the attainment of more powerful and effective skills,” wrote Dr. Bertalan Mesko in his Medical Futurist website. “That’s why many believe it is perfect for behavior change in healthcare. A game is more than the automatic collector of vital signs and notifications. Gamified services engage us, keep us motivated, and help us down the bumpy road of change. It’s the combination of a great buddy and a considerate parent. That’s why I believe gamified solutions will spread like epidemics in healthcare as well.”

Watching how many steps you take can make you challenge yourself to add 100 more each week. The manifestation of progress helps us visualize that we’re treating ourselves better, just like in a video game where stats are counted to show our development.

“People are much more health conscious,” says Cantos. “Lalo na ngayon a greater part of our population are from the younger set. Fun loving sila, they like physical activities, effectively may health component na ‘yun. Since they’re also interested in wellness. ‘Yung curiosity maganda and we just build on that. We just remind them of ways that they can become healthy.”

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Visit Philam Life’s website to know more about Vitality. The app is available to download on iTunes and Google Play.