Irish Life Health Consultancy Project “Move Your Met”
Prof. Niall Moyna, Head of the School of Health and Human Performance at DCU, is widely recognised as one of the country’s leading experts in health and physical activity. He has published over 150 research papers in international peer reviewed journals and is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine. He has been a consultant and adviser to Irish Life Health for many years and through this launched the Schools Fitness Challenge. In 2016, 22,764 secondary school students throughout Ireland participated with 11,040 completing all phases. This initiative is of huge significance for health at a national level.
Building on the success of the Schools Programme, Prof. Moyna entered into a new consultancy engagement with Irish Life to apply the same principles to employees in the workplace. The new programme, entitled the “Aviva Workplace Fitness Challenge” launched in 2016 was branded “Move Your Met” and was supported by the Nutrition Health Foundation (NHF) part of IBEC (Irish Business and Employers Confederation). The overall aim of the challenge is to provide a programme that supports Ireland’s workforce to become fitter and healthier by increasing levels of physical activity in the workplace. To do this, Prof. Moyna designed a mobile phone app, built by a commercial app developer TEKenable, to allow employees to measure their “MET” (metabolic equivalent). A “MET” is defined as your resting metabolic rate and increases in one’s MET can have a tremendous impact on both physical and mental health. Over 130 companies from across the country signed up to the Workplace Challenge. The success of the programme is reflected in the 50,000 downloads of the app. since its launch in January 2016.
Impact on Irish Life Health
The project was commissioned by company MD Jim Dowdall and the national roll-out facilitated by IBEC. This consultancy differed from traditional consultancy agreements through its focus on addressing national health policy rather than a commercial service. The App was made freely available. The Fitness Challenge received national coverage through RTE’s “Operation Transformation” which also features Prof. Moyna. With over 130 companies and 50,000 downloads the success is clear.
The app allows Irish Life Health to be perceived as an innovator in the field. No existing app in the world measures individual cardiovascular fitness levels. A MET score is the best independent indicator of an individual’s health as a determinant of quality of life and longevity. The approach is a paradigm shift moving from reactive to proactive health care. This is a competitive differentiator.
The consultancy helped strengthen the company’s brand among corporates. Over 130 companies have participated including multinationals. The PI has also provided a series of lectures on corporate wellness to these companies.
The project has strategic business implications. Irish Life Health is actively exploring new business models. The company is discussing with the EU, the possibility of reducing premiums for customers with high MET scores and using incentives to encourage a healthier lifestyle.
Beyond this, Irish Life Health, like most health insurers, is acutely aware of the risks of an unhealthy lifestyle and obesity. A recent report estimated that 1 in 4 children in Ireland are obese and is set to cost the Irish taxpayer €5.4B by 2030. While the corporate wellness market offers new opportunities, rising obesity levels raise challenges for health insurers. Rising healthcare costs mean that insurance companies will have to raise insurance premiums, leading to customers being unable to afford appropriate cover.
Prof. Moyna continues to work with Irish Life Health. This is a multi-year engagement. The Schools Fitness Challenge was established in 2012 and runs annually. The parties are currently working to launch both the Schools and Workplace Challenges again in 2017 and the App is being updated to add new feature functionality based on user feedback.