Calm - the digital health management platform

Bambi Francisco Roizen · November 20, 2019 · Short URL:

Future of Mental and Behavioral Health - week 1

It's nearly Thanksgiving. As we approach that day of giving thanks, it's a good time to spend a few moments focusing on what's going right in our lives and not about what's weighing us down. 

Indeed, it is this constant focus on a glass half-empty that fills us with stress.  

So below are some interesting reads about what health incumbents and new innovators are doing to help alleviate stress and improve our mental well-being. Some of the guidance includes proactively moving around, like exercising 20 minutes a day, or calming down with apps like Calm. Caution: you're likely to fall asleep with Calm as it's so good at its job. You can also take my advice from last year, "If life gives you lemons, put them on your turkey."

As some of our readers may know, I write a weekly or bi-monthly roundup of notable stories, articles and reports about the topics we'll focus on. Since our next event is Future of Mental and Behavioral Health event, which will be hosted on March 25, 2020 at UCSF, my roundups will be focused on mental and behavioral health.     

If this topic is of interest to you, register early to join us. Or join the Vator community to get these roundups in your inbox. Or if you're looking to disrupt this space, we're also still looking for young startups to present. Apply here to let us know you're interested. 

Hope to see you there! In the meantime, enjoy this week's roundup.   

Calm - the digital health management platform

I have been reviewing mental health apps for some time, and only in the last 18 months have become intrigued with the possibility that Calm may be the platform on which behavioral modifications for chronic conditions will be administered. Some may say it's easy to say this since Calm has already amassed such a community of people using it as a meditation app. But it's not so easy since there are a lot of naysayers who think this would be a stretch, and it might be.

But Calm is already branching out, selling into the enterprise as a corporate perks benefit.  It's easy to use, which is clear given its adoption. The other "mental health" apps have had a tough time with adoption because frankly they required "too" much thinking and interaction from the adopter -- whether it's a gaming app, or a CBT app, or a therapy/coaching app. While these apps are great, Calm's proposition has always been broader and its interface far simpler. You could use Calm or Headspace [its competitor] in the background. In fact, it's on as I write this.

Should they become a trusted household name, it'll just be a matter of time before they become purveyors of more than just meditations.   

Cigna's Health Accelerated: Life Connected

Cigna has been doubling down on mental health for some time. Last year, we spoke with Eva Borden, Senior Managing Director at Cigna about Cigna's efforts to encourage their ACOs (accountable care organizations) to "embed behaviorists" into their practice so they can address the physical and mental well-being of their patients. 

More recently, Cigna posted an essay about how it's partnering with employers to optimize their health and well-being. The program is called Health Accelerated: Life Connected. The program looks at five areas:

Physical Health: Most employees exercise less than 15 minutes in a work day. They should exercise 20 minutes. Cigna provides members access to digital coaches that help track their patient's weight, stress and alcohol intake. Cigna also encourages employers to provide more nutritious foods, and onsite nutrition seminars. 

Emotional health: Stress, in the form of anxiety and depression, affects more than 16 million people. Cigna provides digital tools to help individuals cope.

Environmental health: Cigna helps businesses create "healthy work environments by conducting environmental assessments, implementing green initiatives, and providing recommendations for ergonomics.

Financial health: 72 percent of Americans are stressed about money. Cigna wants to provide members tools to understand their financial situation so they can define a path toward those financial goals.

Social health: Only 53 percent of Americans have meaningful, in-person interactions daily. Cigna wants to create a stronger connection between life and health.      

Read more in The Business Journal

Arizona development bans cars


One of these days, I'm moving to wine country. More outdoors; fewer cars. It's not that I'm a climate alarmist, but I am a big believer in walking or biking vs driving. We're all the more healthier for it, if not only for the mere reason that we're physically active. One new startup called Culdesac is leading the charge to encourage more of this physical activity by building car-free neighborhoods. It's a great development, no pun intended.

Here's what the company says about its first location in Tempe, Arizona.

"We’ve pulled out the parking lots to make room for acres of greenspace, friendly courtyards, and shops right at your doorstep. We’re bringing together services like ridesharing, bikes and scooters, and same-day grocery delivery, so zero private cars means zero hassle. Plus, an on-site light rail stop makes it a breeze to get downtown for work."

I'd say the only vehicles missing here are electric golf carts. Otherwise, I love this idea. The founders Ryan Johnson and Jeff Berens also note in their blog that culture is ready for it as they point out, "In 1983, 46% of 16-year-olds had licenses. Today, it’s just 24%."

Read more on WSJ 

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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