WE ARE MORE EQUIPPED AND BETTER ENTERTAINED THAN EVER, BUT WE AREN’T EXACTLY WELL. CALL IT THE PARADOX OF PROGRESS. COULD THE POWER OF DESIGN BE OUR SALVATION?
WORDS: CHARLIE KEATON
Forget political gridlock and never-ending debates about policy reform. In the face of a national health crisis, a wave of integrated design innovations, from facilities to technologies to consumer products, is disrupting the system and giving consumers better control of their own well-being.
Cars drive themselves. Drones deliver groceries. We talk to our phones and our phones talk back. If you blinked, you might have missed it: The future arrived while we were busy doing other things.
Modern life is dependent upon, if not flatly ruled by, technologies that barely existed a decade ago. We have precious little understanding of the invisible wizardry that sends our emails or navigates our GPS, but we’d be lost without it. Even our entertainment options, limited mostly to compact discs and cable networks at the turn of the 21st century, are boundless. Americans now spend more than four hours per day watching TV, and nearly three hours on mobile devices like phones and tablets.
And yet despite these great advancements—or perhaps in large part because of them—we face an unprecedented health crisis. Preventable, lifestyle related conditions proliferate. Even here in Colorado, which routinely ranks as one of the healthiest states in the nation, more than half of all adults are overweight or obese. Depression and other mental health-related illness is at an all-time high. We are more equipped and better entertained than ever, but we aren’t exactly well. Call it the paradox of progress.
But wait, hang on, don’t give up just yet. There is hope on the horizon, and that hope lies in the power of the very technology that engulfs us. More precisely, it is the power of design that just might be our salvation.
Design, after all, is the force that allows for greater efficiencies among doctors and nurses in today’s hyper-connected healthcare facilities. It drives the development of everyday consumer products, which address issues of hygiene, hydration, sleep, fitness, and nutrition. It informs the evolution of modern workspaces, which support and encourage employee wellness. And in an age where 86 percent of mobile device use is devoted to web applications, it powers the cutting-edge programs that allow us to track, analyze, integrate, and improve our behavioral patterns in ways never before imagined.
We are a species at a crossroads. The stakes are immense and the road ahead is littered with obstacles and opportunity. For the sake of our health, and our loved ones, and our future: Let the burning embers of innovative design light the way.
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