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Healthism: building health literacy through the web

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Healthism has been active on the web for about a year and is gradually ramping up, Ramsey says. Currently, the site has information about diseases and conditions, symptoms, men’s and women’s health and prevention. It also features “calculators” for BMI, body fat, calcium, target heart rate and calories, and 20 “check-ups”, including colour blindness, Type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and Vitamin D deficiency. The check-ups tell you your risk level for the particular condition and a list of recommendations, such as to take Vitamin D supplements to help prevent colon cancer.

Healthism’s site has many social media aspects, including lists of the most popular check-ups and articles, personalized advice, and Twitter, Facebook and Google+ links.  Healthism also has a Facebook app, which embeds the site’s health quizzes, surveys and check-ups.

However, Ramsey says: “We sprinkle ‘social’ where it appears appropriate, rather than throwing in plenty of features which have no place.” For example, if you take a check-up on Healthism which asks about your risk factors for diabetes, at the end of it, you can share the check-up (not the results) via Twitter or email. You can also save a pdf of the results for your own records or to discuss with your doctor. “Never do we allow the sharing of personal health information. Instead we like to allow for our users to improve the health of their friends and family utilizing social media and sharing technologies.” 

Healthism’s business model differs from other health sites, Ramsey says. “The traditional online health business model is very much based on a primitive and, in my opinion, inappropriate model of non-contextual advertising. This opens up the door to conflict of interest, as it is questionable whether corporations are the best authorities to be advising us on our health care when they have a vested interest in selling their products.”

Instead, Ramsey says, Healthism will focus on linking users to appropriate service providers and products depending on their afflictions, problems and frustrations. “All leads will be approved by our medical advisory board and focus on quality care above all else,” he says. Healthism will also license its “health dashboard” to other enterprises, he says.

Future plans include an iPhone/Android app that will provide screening check-ups for health problems and then give users location and context-based recommendations.

Healthism is very much a work in progress, with new articles and features being added gradually. The number of users is also building gradually as well, but Ramsey is happy with the progress: “We're showing some extremely reassuring traction and positive results in initial user growth. It feels great for our work from our alpha/beta phase to start getting validated in the public's eyes” as Healthism leads the way towards “an era of interactive and personalized health.”

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