As the marriage oath goes… ”in sickness and in health”. For almost a third of humanity, the cultural framework for what people hope will be the happiest relationship of their lives starts with “sickness.” This is just one example of how we are all hardwired to think about and focus on illness rather than on health.

In part, this is because illness can seem concrete while health can seem more abstract. When faced with the possibility of the imminent death of a loved one, you’ll probably spend whatever money is needed to postpone that outcome – whether it’s a pet or a person in your immediate family. But when faced with opportunities to invest in longevity, we often hesitate because the benefits seem less specific and too far in the future. (Jazz musician Eubie Blake, when asked how it felt to be 96 years old, famously replied: “If I’d known I was going to live so long, I would have taken better care of myself.”) These biases are embedded in public policy as well as in individual decisions and personal behaviors. For instance, the UK’s NHS spends only about 5% of its budget on prevention.

Sickness vs Health v3


At BOI, we seek not just to prevent sickness, but to put more emphasis on being proactively healthy. And we believe that starts with re-envisioning what it is to be healthy and making it more visible.

Our focus is on promoting proactive wellbeing
(even prevention is too late)

We’re divorcing our perspective of health from its relationship to sickness, and instead embracing a new vision of healthcare and proactive health that extends beyond just medicine. According to the World Health Organization, the three constituent elements of health are mental, physical and social wellbeing. Of course, the three are intertwined, and vitality in one can boost health in the other two. From this perspective, the least discussed aspect of health is social wellbeing, which includes factors such as one’s environment, community, and financial situation.
With this definition in mind, it is easier to recognise that even the position of preventive care is failing if the mission is achieving health and wellbeing in this holistic sense. So we’re thinking a step before prevention: proactivity. Proactivity to maintain or lessen the gap between where we are, and where the above definition of health is, rather than looking backwards at what is preventing us from achieving this definition. One of our lead healthcare consultants, Andrea Crossley, recalls the first project she did for healthcare. It was for a medical diagnosis center and the team came to the conclusion that people shouldn’t be called patients, because it already says that they have to be patient and wait – an inherently negative connotation with getting better. So the team sought to reframe this – could they be wellseekers instead?

What we’re doing now
(and what we’re not)

What we’re not doing is taking a siloed approach. Instead, we imagine tomorrow’s products, services and businesses, we’re mapping out what is being done already, including the things that are not so visible, and connecting the dots. We’re working to build the argument for proactive health case by case, with positive examples of where specific practical solutions are connected to bigger opportunities that benefit all healthcare stakeholders.

At BOI, we have had the pleasure of working on many ‘invisible’ cases that have been the truly impactful, from envisioning how leak-proof underwear can aid menstruators in living their day to day lives without interruption, to bringing better management of family planning to couples on their fertility journey. In the words of Bryan Berger, EMEA Healthcare Business Director: “Through our partnerships, we have learned that the most important solutions are to the greatest pains that people will hopefully never experience.”

Research and technology is advancing at such a rate that we can look at predictors of health, and predictors of longevity, and predictors of things that make us feel good both emotionally and physically, in whole new ways. That includes not just personalized medicine (genome mapping, sensors and monitors, advanced testing) and other early indicators that something might be wrong in the future, but also benchmarks on how to live longer. As always, as innovation consultants, our focus is on what is practical. Our rule of thumb is: will what we are recommending make it to market? Can it be implemented? Are we creating tomorrow’s products, services and businesses today? Many of the technologies we need are already available but not widely utilized. For instance, Crossley recalls: “When I first worked on our population health project in Latin America, I was amazed to see that so many parts of the solution were already there. Almost everyone now has at least some connectivity. And especially after COVID, there’s ample digital literacy. So it’s the perfect opportunity, if we can manage to focus on doing what’s best for people now.”