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Boston University SPH and Sharecare launch well-being index looking at impact of environment on health

The Community Well-Being Index will show how the environment affects access to health resources, readiness to change and overall health risk.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

The Boston University School of Public Health and Sharecare, the digital health company founded by WebMD founder Jeff Arnold, and television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz have launched a new index to measure and improve well-being.

Beyond datasets and metrics, the new Community Well-Being Index examines genetics, lifestyle choices and social factors, as well as more than 60 social determinants of health, and real-time and near-time datasets, such as traffic, weather, walkability, food insecurity and crime.

While Sharecare has been measuring well-being for the last 10 years, the new index looks at the impact of the environment on access to health resources, readiness to change, and overall health risk.
For instance, the Sharecare app will target people who sit in traffic during their daily commutes.

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The Biostatistics and Epidemiology Data Analytics Center, a data science unit within the Boston University School of Public Health, is supplementing that information with more than 60 additional social determinants of health variables across five core areas: the built environment; health and healthcare; the social and community context; education; and economic stability, Sharecare said.

Sharecare will contribute data from de-identified, self-reported data it has amassed through its RealAge health risk assessment taken by more than 45 million people. Other data will come from permission-based health tracker data measuring sleep, steps and stress from Sharecare app users who opt-in.

In addition, Sharecare partners are sharing other de-identified data such as real-time grocery transactions, biometrics and lab results, and prescription medication fulfillment.

This is intended to create multi-dimensional layering and analysis for an expansive and diversified well-being index.


Data from the well-being index will inform each Sharecare user's personalized experience by delivering custom insights.

This will include information on the impact their environment is having on their RealAge, geospatial maps to help them better understand their health in the moment and location-based plans for better health choices.

For example, the Sharecare app could send a morning notification to commuters to pack their workout clothes. At the end of the day, as the individuals are sitting in traffic, the Sharecare app could suggest nearby fitness facilities or green spaces for them to meet their daily fitness goals. The reminders also avoid the stress and loneliness of rush hour, Sharecare said.

The CWI data repository will become an actionable toolkit for public health researchers across the country, according to  Dr. Sandro Galea, Dean of Boston University's School of Public Health.

Sharecare's clients also will be granted access to data visualization capabilities in the well-being index to better analyze and implement health and well-being strategies for their populations.

Best-in-class academic collaborators will be invited to access a centralized researcher data repository to advance the science of population health.

These healthcare practitioners, public health officials, academic institutions and community leaders will have the ability to access CWI data through a real-time digital interface and data dashboard that will overlay and incorporate geospatial social determinant data; self-reported well-being and lifestyle factors; and localized social determinant data such as food insecurity, community walkability, access to care, and environmental and behavioral risk factors.

Together, the academia and private sector collaboration will report on the country's health and well-being by providing public access to an annual CWI state and community rankings reports.

The data will also serve Sharecare's Blue Zones Project, a community-led well-being initiative that leverages the lessons learned from the world's longest lived populations to make healthy choices easier. The Blue Zones Project is active in 48 communities across 11 states.


This population health data aids individuals and healthcare organizations in addressing well-being and the social determinants of health.


SDOH measures target the need for food, shelter, transportation, social interaction and more to increase the quality of care and take cost out of the healthcare system related to chronic diseases, readmissions and emergency room visits.

Sharecare has been measuring well-being by analyzing both physical and non-physical factors of health across purpose, social, financial, community and physical domains for the last 10 years, during which it collected surveys from more than 2.5 million Americans.


"By collaborating with Sharecare on the Community Well-Being Index, we are bringing together state-of-the-science thinking about how health is produced with an innovative digital platform that can help advance health across the life course of individuals, communities and large populations," said Dr. Sandro Galea, Dean of Boston University's School of Public Health.

"Further, Sharecare's scale, combined with the analytic capabilities of the BEDAC team, will allow us to more deeply understand the most pressing health challenges across America at a hyperlocal level," said Jeff Arnold, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Sharecare. "Simply put, the CWI will advance our ability to deliver the right interventions to people at the right time which not only will improve their personal health but also the places where they work, live and play. This type of ubiquitous location-centric design and data are at the nexus of healthcare's next evolution, empowering individuals and communities to better understand and navigate their well-being journeys in ways that have previously been out of reach."


Quest Diagnostics has become Sharecare's latest investor and has been named its lab partner, bringing the total raised well in excess of $400 million, Sharecare said.
In 2015, the Hospital Corporation of America made an undisclosed investment in Sharecare and announced that the two companies were working together to create new patient engagement offerings as well as a joint innovation lab.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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