Wellsphere is a perfect website for those of us who have trouble keeping our New Year's Resolutions. At Wellsphere, the goal is to build online communities where people encourage each other to "get active, eat better, and unwind." As we all know, that's easier said than done. The way Wellsphere works is that it connects members with local health and wellness resources, classes, and activities that match their goals, while fostering a supportive community environment where members motivate each other to stay on track.
The founders, Ron Gutman and Dave Kashen, started the company as a way to help solve the nation's health crisis. Working with Stanford's grad school students, they asked for feedback to the question: "How to we help people improve their lives?" With hundreds of responses, papers, and tests, they came up with the core values of Wellsphere:
- Social Support & Community
Under the "personalization" umbrella are solutions designed for real people. Sure, we all know that we should exercise more and eat right, but c'mon, if it were that easy, we would all be doing it! Gutman and Kashen know that busy people need personal solutions that go beyond general advice like "do some cardio" or "count those calories!" The site also helps members find the right gym, personal trainer, yoga studio, cooking class, hiking trail, recreational facility, etc. by providing a national directory of local resources and by having members share their recommendations with others.
The social aspect of Wellsphere involves meeting people and making friends who support each other to make changes and stick with them. As it turns out, our friends influences are just as a powerful motivation than any book we read or gym membership we sign up for. (Apparently, knowing that you're paying for a service you don't use, like the gym, is still not enough to get most people to go.)
The incentives program provides rewards, in the form of wellpoints, which are awarded when you do things that are good for you or that help others, like setting a goal or adding recommendations.
As you begin participating, you can track your progress using customizable tools like your own progress chart, while also participating in communities, posting in forums, and leaving feedback for your friends on their "boards," which is like Wellshere's version of Facebook's "Wall."
The site, whose logo jokingly implies they are in "omega cubed" as opposed to the usual "beta," has actually been around since October 2007, initially launching as the online community BeWell@Stanford. Wellsphere now offers similar enterprise solutions under their iBeWell offering, which companies can provide to their employees to encourage healthier lifestyles and help lower healthcare costs.
January is the perfect time for Wellsphere to receive attention as it's the time of the year that people take stock of their lives and plan to make changes. By joining a community of similarly-minded people, many resolution-makers may actually find success in 2008.