With roots in South by Southwest interactive and driven to find new ways to encourage healthier lifestyles, nonprofit HealthCode is working to create a healthier, happier world one step at a time.
Steve Amos, executive director and founder of HealthCode, was struck by the state of declining health around the world during a health session during South by Southwest, which has become a hub for discovering new ideas.
“At South by Southwest we heard the phrase ‘sitting is the new smoking,’’’ Amos said. “I didn’t jump on it right away. I had two grandparents who died too young as the result of smoking a couple of packs a day. But the more we learned, we were driven to take action.”
With Austin’s outdoorsy culture and reputation for innovation, the city was the perfect fit to launch a nonprofit dedicated to looking for new innovative ways to empower people to live healthier, happier lives free from chronic disease.
“Unhealthy has become the new norm,’’ Amos said. “Our sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets are literally killing us. It is time to re-code our way of thinking and establish a new community-wide approach to address this critical issue.”
Even Austin, which has a scenic hike-and-bike trail running through the city, has more to do to improve the health of its residents as nearly 6 out of 10—58%,—of adults in Travis County are obese or overweight, Amos said.
HealthCode in April 2014 launched a pilot project known as Million Mile Month, an activity challenge with a goal to engage individuals to take control of their health and achieve 1 million miles as one global community in the month of April.
“We wanted everybody to get moving,’’ Amos said. “While we did not hit a million miles that first year, we received hundreds of stories of how participating in the event changed their lives. So, we kept going, expanding and growing.”
The Million Mile Month program is simple. Participants complete activities and log the miles or minutes on the HealthCode online activity tracker. Throughout the month the program is updated with miles contributed by people all around the world.
Since the first Million Mile Month challenge, the program has expanded as companies of all sizes and individuals from around the world stepped up to take the challenge.
As Million Mile Month grew, so did HealthCode. The nonprofit today offers quarterly global activity events with more than 50,000 participants and organizations across all 50 U.S. states and in 30 countries. More than 7 million miles of activity have been logged, with projected savings in healthcare costs estimated at more than $1 million. In addition to April’s Million Mile Month, HealthCode initiatives include iResolve in January, Triathlon in a Month in July and Marathon in a Month in October.
HealthCode’s programs empower people to live healthier lives through community-focused, goal-based challenges. The nonprofit raises awareness and educates people on ways they can live healthier, happier lives with a focus on physical activity, nutrition, and environment; engaging people year-round in healthy behavioral change.
HealthCode works with organizations of all sizes to engage employees and help meet wellness goals, including the city of Austin and other municipalities, school districts and global businesses like Keller Williams and Dun & Bradstreet.
Looking forward, HealthCode will continue to look for ways to adapt its programs and incorporate new features and technology while encouraging people to live healthier lives; and helping weave together communities, in support of healthier, happier people and more connected, resilient communities.
“Physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health and wellbeing. Regular physical activity can help control weight, when also incorporating a smart diet, helping reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers,“ Amos said. “And it makes you feel good.“