Health Lifestyles Management: Strategies for Sustainable Wellness

Health Lifestyles Management: Strategies for Sustainable Wellness

David Boucher,Chief Executive Officer of Bumrungrad International Hospital Phuket & Market

In this interview, David Boucher elaborates on the significance of health lifestyle management in promoting sustainable wellness. He emphasizes the importance of personalized health interventions, the role of digital technologies, and the ethical considerations of data utilization. Boucher also shares successful program examples and addresses socio-economic, cultural, and corporate factors influencing wellness initiatives. His insights highlight future advancements and provide actionable recommendations for healthcare organizations and policymakers to prioritize effective health lifestyle management strategies globally.

1. Could you elaborate on the concept of health lifestyle management and its significance in promoting sustainable wellness in today's healthcare landscape? 

Sure, I’d be happy to.  I believe it is imperative that as healthcare leaders, we model the behaviors we hope others will follow in order to achieve and maintain a long, happy healthspan.  So, if we want a healthy, happy family home, employee base, and high Net Promoter Score results from satisfied wellness clients, we need to live healthy lifestyles.  In short, we need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  This means understanding what our DNA tells us, getting significant exercise, plenty of restorative rest, ‘proper’ nutrition – and then maybe nutritional supplements.  This takes personal commitment, discipline and the loooong view.  Most often, ourselves and our healthcare organizations took several years of complacency to erode to states of “dis-ease”.  So we cannot expect significant improvement overnight.

As we pivot our healthcare organizations from ‘disease care’ to ‘health care’, we may be challenged by naysayers - - and it becomes easy to dispel negative Nellies by an affirming, “If I can do it, so can you!”  Through the power of attraction rather than promotion, we inspire our employees and prospective longevity customers. 

2. What role do personalized health interventions play in shaping individuals' lifestyle choices and long-term wellness outcomes? 

In my opinion, shaping one’s long-term wellness outcomes is ALL ABOUT personalized health interventions.  I have visited hospitals in 37 different countries and have learned one almost universal truth (at least in developed countries): Your healthcare belongs in the most influential hands possible – your own!  This necessitates that each of us become aware of our current health status, develop an understanding of the actions we need to take on the journey of improvement, and then commit to change.  I have found that when we stand at this turning point, it is essential to possess sufficient motivation to actually take the first steps of long-term change.  This is oftentimes facilitated by what I refer to as, “the gift of desperation” - - both for individuals and organizations.  This ‘gift’ may take the form of a physician discharging you from her practice because you have refused to lose weight, start exercising, quit smoking, etc. For organizations, this may take shape of several financially-poor quarters or a wake-up message from your board chairperson that your job is on the line.

3. In your experience, what are the key challenges faced by healthcare providers in implementing effective health lifestyle management programs, and how can these challenges be overcome? 

One challenge that is seen repeatedly is that longevity programs are launched when management simply implement a hodgepodge of modalities with no real unified, integrated program.  Perhaps the most egregious mistake is that clients are offered a “blueprint for living” a healthy lifestyle – with zero action plan of exactly what to do to improve.  It’s only of late, that certified wellness coaches are coming into vogue because increasingly our customers are demanding results – not simply assessments.  To be truly effective, this needs to include the daily interaction between client and coach – at least for the first 90 days – if even a quick phone call or an exchange of text messages.

4. How do digital health technologies and data analytics contribute to optimizing health lifestyle management strategies for better patient engagement and outcomes? 

As intonated in my prior response, regular monitoring and coaching are essential for results. This can be supplemented, but not supplanted, by digital technologies.  For instance, a blood sugar arm patch can notify the client that they are entering a danger zone.  But when they also get a quick phone call or text message from their wellness coach, they can quickly become motivated to act.  One of the adages that I learned early in my 46-year healthcare management career, is that our employees often do what we INSPECT, not what we EXPECT.  The same holds true with behavior change in our longevity clients.  We help our clients and organizations become biased toward action by employing this simple principle.

5. What are the ethical considerations and privacy concerns associated with collecting and utilizing lifestyle data for personalized wellness interventions, and how can these be addressed? 

Every country has different laws, so there’s no one-size fits all.  Generally, we need to make sure that clients understand what our longevity programs are all about (in the native tongue) and they give us written permission to use their data to help them.  I know that at our hospital, there is absolutely connection between our DNA sequencers and our EMR… so clients’ data is totally secure.

6. Can you share examples of successful health lifestyle management programs or initiatives that have demonstrated significant improvements in patient well-being and sustainability?

Sure, VitalLife Scientific Wellness Center in Bangkok, Thailand ( has effectively evolved over the past 20 years into one of the world’s premier longevity programs.  Much of VitalLife’s growth is due to WOM advertising – Word-Of-Mouth – from satisfied clients who have made the necessary changes to improve their healthspan. 

7. How do socio-economic factors influence individuals' access to and participation in health lifestyle management programs, and what strategies can be implemented to promote inclusivity and equity? 

Great question.  I included a caveat in my response to Question #2 that people living in developed countries have a clear advantage in making the necessary lifestyle changes to enjoy a long healthspan.  It’s Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 101: if residents in undeveloped communities do not have potable water, flushing toilets, healthy food in their stomachs and a dry place to sleep, they are fighting hour-to-hour just to stay alive.  This is a major challenge.  I was once the CEO of two rural hospitals 17 miles apart in a very rural area of South Carolina, USA.  The particular region has the highest stroke rates on the planet – truly THE buckle on the stroke belt.  Yet there was not a single gym in the entire county and finding healthy food in the two county grocery stores was very difficult.

8. What are the potential synergies between health lifestyle management and preventive healthcare measures, and how can integrated approaches enhance overall population health and wellness? 

I think there are natural synergies between many health lifestyle management and preventive measures.  For instance, quitting cigarette smoking is a lifestyle management behavior change – that is also an undisputed preventive healthcare measure.  Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for both 50-something women and men can dramatically improve restorative sleep – which has numerous other preventive healthcare impacts.

9. What role can employers and corporate wellness programs play in promoting healthy lifestyles among employees, and what are the key elements of a successful workplace wellness initiative? 

Employers taking an active role in employee health has proven to be effective in work presenteeism, reduced sick days, increased productivity, and sometimes increased morale.  Frankly, I believe this begins with recruiting and hiring associates who are generally in good health and who have positive outlooks…. Makes sense, right?  This selection process increases the organization’s likelihood of success and results in fewer major changes that need to occur as time passes.  Free on-site gym access, smoking cessation and weight loss programs, free sleep studies, EAP sessions, and true respect for weekend and holiday time away from the workplace are all key elements.

10. How do cultural beliefs and societal norms impact individuals' attitudes towards health lifestyle management, and how can culturally sensitive approaches be integrated into healthcare strategies? 

Tough question due to the extensive variability that exists in our world.  Let’s consider the use (or non-use) of motorcycle helmets. Many on-line reports suggest that I live in the country that holds the unfortunate record of having the highest rate of motorbike-related traffic fatalities.  Despite the Thai government recommending that motorcyclists wear safety-rated helmets and despite both local police and civic organizations sponsoring regular free helmet giveaways, a significant percentage of cyclists refuse them. This is a cultural phenomenon that I do not understand.

11. What advancements do you foresee in health lifestyle management technologies and interventions in the next decade, and how will these shape the future of healthcare delivery and outcomes? 

The main improvements will be in the proliferation of legitimate wellness coaches, the continually diminishing price for DNA testing, wearable technologies, and in artificial intelligence (AI).  At a more granular level, I think we’ll see a significant shift over the next decade to eating much more protein – along with more strength, flexibility, and balance efforts.  

12. Finally, what actionable recommendations would you provide to healthcare organizations and policymakers to prioritize and invest in effective health lifestyle management strategies for sustainable wellness on a global scale? 

I think this has to be handled with a disease-specific approach on a country-by-country basis.  I have been a Rotarian for over 25 years and have regularly contributed to Rotary’s Polio Plus program.  Rotary has been working in concert with the Gates Foundation and the WHO since the 1980s. India became polio-free in 2012 – over a dozen years ago!  Truly an amazing feat that could have only been achieved through an ego-contained effort to inoculate the masses in a country that has so many challenges.  

13. In your opinion, what overarching message or principle do you believe is essential for individuals and healthcare stakeholders to embrace when striving for sustainable wellness through effective health lifestyle management? 

Simple first things first: Eliminate 100% of processed sugars (white and brown).