Recycled fitness monitors benefit underserved populations with chronic conditions

Sep 01, 2016

Fitness devices are pervasive for those who can afford them, and motivated users often upgrade to the  latest device with newest features. In the fourth quarter of 2015, the wearables market leapt 126.9% according to IDC. In fact, in 2016, one in two people are using some kind of wearable tech.  Employers are also distributing fitness trackers to their employees as part of employee wellness programs, in an effort to reduce insurance premiums. Yet how many of these users abandon their trackers and how many others upgrade to a new device?

Manufacturers of wearables are constantly competing to launch new devices with new features. Take the 2016 Consumer Electronic Show which featured dozens of wearable devices with new features, multifunction watches and fashion forward designs. The temptation to upgrade is palpable for those who can afford it.

But what about the underserved who could benefit from having a device to track their health, to better manage a range of conditions such as pre-diabetes, heart disease or other health risks? Can abandoned devices be recycled? If so how and who is doing it successfully? Recycle Health, a program founded in 2015 by Lisa Gualtieri of Tufts University is doing just that. There are three key aspects to the program:

1.       Encouraging donations of fitness devices at conferences and through postage-paid mail ins

2.       Partnering with organizations who will co-promote the donation effort, and,

3.       Working with fitness programs for the underserved to promote health and wellness.

So far the program is showing success as more researchers take an interest in providing recycled devices to those who cannot afford them. Will other programs emerge to further extend the potential benefits to the underserved and reduce another part of health disparities? The challenge is yours.