When Joanna Atzori’s Garmin watch went flying off the kitchen bench one day in March 2019, she could never have predicted that it would lead to a shocking discovery about her health.
The broken fitness tracker was expensive, so Joanna decided to use some Shopping Rewards vouchers she’d earned through AIA Vitality to replace it. Joanna knew she had almost reached Platinum Status with the programme, and if she reached Platinum Status, she would earn another Shopping Rewards voucher that could help her cover the cost of the device. A screening test or check-up would do it, but she’d already had her flu vaccination, dental check-up and eye test.
“I looked down the list and saw ‘mammogram’,” she recalls. “In the same week, my employer promoted breast screening services on our intranet and I thought, ‘this is a sign’.”
A fit and healthy 41-year-old, Joanna went off to have a mammogram screening expecting an all-clear. But, it revealed a hidden problem – a ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) that had spread to a lymph node in her right breast.
“It was one of those moments in life where you will never forget how you felt and what thoughts went through your head,” says Joanna. “At my diagnosis I heard the words, ‘early’ and ‘treatable’, which was great, but my surgeon did say to me that if I hadn’t had that mammogram, it would have been six to 12 months later that I would have felt something – by that stage it would have been a totally different conversation.”
Joanna’s treatment was quick and aggressive – within two weeks of diagnosis she had a mastectomy, followed by five months of chemotherapy and 25 sessions of radiation.
More than a year later, she’s well on her way towards remission, and is now a strong advocate for lowering the invitation age for mammograms. “I think a lot more women would be diagnosed earlier,” she says.
Although Joanna has a family history of breast cancer, a mammogram wasn’t really “on her radar”. That’s where the AIA Vitality wellbeing programme can play an important role in nudging members towards positive actions, says Candice Smith, AIA’s head of wellbeing.
Based on the science of behavioural economics (the psychology of decision-making), the programme uses research-backed strategies to incentivise and reward healthy actions and choices, such as undertaking routine screening and exercising.
In Australia, Smith explains, there are four lifestyle behaviours – physical inactivity, poor diet, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption – that lead to the conditions responsible for 90 per cent of the nation’s preventable deaths.
“The opportunity that presents to make a difference with preventative health programs like AIA Vitality is immense,” Smith says. “While we believe that cover and protection is important, we believe that living healthily throughout your life is just as, if not more, critical. AIA Vitality leverages behavioural economics to make those things that we would otherwise potentially not get around to, relevant today.”
There are three pillars in the AIA Vitality programme, aimed at knowing your health, improving your health and enjoying the rewards, each with different nudges for healthier behaviours.
In the Know Your Health pillar, tests that offer insight into your current health status are incentivised with points, while in Improve Your Health you have access to discounted gym memberships and smoking cessation programs to help you make healthier choices.
As your Status grows with the points you earn, you are then able to access more rewards including cashback on flights and discounted endota spa e-Gift cards.
“We place significantly more value on things we know the barriers are generally higher to,” explains Smith. “Getting someone to go for a mammogram, for example, is not the easiest thing to do, so we select the quantum of points to ensure that if we can’t reduce the barrier we make the incentive sufficient to encourage that behaviour.”
In Joanna’s case, the mammogram was worth far more than the 1,000 points she earned for attending. Picking up her new Garmin a couple of weeks into chemotherapy was a bittersweet moment. “My husband and I were saying, ‘thank goodness that watch broke’, because who knows what our future could have looked like.”
This story was originally published in Good Weekend.