Friday, March 13, 2015

If You Measure It ...

"If you measure something, it will get better."

That is the premise behind a new program "offered" by our health insurance.  (And by "offered," I mean that we get to pay $1000 more on our health insurance premiums next year if we don't participate.  No.  Wait.  I take that back.  We don't pay more if we aren't following this new program.  We pay less if we are following the program.  What?  You don't see a difference?  Neither do I.  But I'm guessing there's a legal technicality that matters in how it's phrased.)

Anyway, we are supposed to rack up points.  Enough points earns you the bonus money.  We get points for reading their daily health tips.  We get points each day for self-reporting on three health-habits.  They provided us fancy high-tech pedometers, and we earn points for every 1000 steps it measures.  Extra points if you have your blood-pressure tested at work at least once a month.  And much more.

#1.  Do we suspect that the requirements will increase quarterly or yearly?  Yes, we do. 

#2.  There's some comfort in hearing that loads of other folks are bothered by the tracking of personal health data and are feeling that their privacy is infringed.  And yet, everybody feels that the huge cost difference means we must comply.

#3.  Do we think this sort of thing will become commonplace with nationalized health care?  Yes, we do.  Do we suspect that mere tracking of information will eventually morph into helpful suggestions of ways to improve our health?  And then instructions?  And then demands?

#4.  The computer glitches.  OH, the computer glitches!  Points not being counted here.  Habits not being registered there.   Besides the regular computer glitches, daylight savings time threw another humongous monkey wrench into it all.  This does not instill confidence in the system.

#5.  And finally, the so-called axiom on which the entire program is built: "If you measure something, it will get better."  Sorry.  I don't buy that.

For one thing, we've seen how that works with standardized testing in school.  We test more and more and more.  And education has not improved.

The whole point of improvement-through-measuring is that we will be embarrassed to have "bad numbers" and will then work harder to prove that we exercised or skipped dessert or lost weight.  But what the ceaseless measuring does is cause us to always be looking at ourselves and evaluating ourselves.

This is navel-gazing.
It's also stressful.
Neither of these contributes to health.

Furthermore, I noticed the effect of "if you measure it" when I first chose my health habits to track.  I thought I would choose meditation as one of my options.  It would be easy to [ahem] score well, seeing as how I already have established a habit (albeit a habit that is not as consistent as I'd like).  But you know what?  It really REALLY messed with my mind and my soul and my prayers.  Just being aware that I'd have to report the number of minutes each day?  [Shudder!!]  It was so creepy that I quit after a day and a half, and chose myself a different health habit.

Measuring made it worse.  A lot worse.  Not better.

Andrew found the same thing when he had to log his food for nutrition class.  Logging it changed what he ate.  For the worse, not the better. 

When Maggie first joined Curves, she was initially interested in weighing herself daily.  Not a good plan.  That's how people become overly caught up in the numbers instead of actual health and fitness.  Occasional measurements are fine.  But measuring too often is counterproductive.

In our society, nigh onto everybody was raised in a school system that tracked and measured every little thing.  Look how people LOVE to take those little tests on Facebook that measure personality type, or which famous actress you're like, or how many of these trivia facts do you know, or which state would best suit you.
I think we've developed a mentality that takes for granted "Measuring Makes It Better."  And now we're stuck with it.

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