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The Science of Vitality – 25 years of driving positive behaviour change, and as relevant as ever

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The Science of Vitality – 25 years of driving positive behaviour change, and as relevant as ever

Discovery Vitality releases The Science of Vitality journal, highlighting the data, science and insights behind the global wellness and behaviour change programme, born in South Africa, now making 20 million people healthier in 37 countries

Johannesburg |24 March 2022

What if there was a way to make people live longer, healthier, happier lives and reward them for taking steps towards their own good health?

Discovery Vitality today released The Science of Vitality journal which details the insights behind the innovative behaviour change platform developed 25 years ago, five years after Adrian Gore founded Discovery.

“When Discovery Vitality launched in 1997, South Africa was at a turning point in its history, faced with a high and complex disease burden, too few doctors, and community-rated insurance. Discovery recognised the need to intervene on the demand side of healthcare by prioritising prevention. By incentivising Discovery Health Medical Scheme members to engage in healthier behaviours such as going to the gym and making healthier food choices, they would stay healthier and essentially live longer. This is Vitality,” says Adrian Gore, Chief Executive at Discovery.

A way of life for today and the future

Dinesh Govender, CEO of Vitality South Africa explains: “Vitality is a behaviour-change programme that finds its apex in technology – backed by an enormous amount of data and science. With this in mind, we have collated The Science of Vitality journal to show simply and clearly how the Vitality programme manifests in tangible change for the better. The journal explains this evidence-based approach which encourages and rewards members for good health, driving and spending behaviour.”

Govender says while Vitality has always been impactful – with robust longitudinal data proving how many people experience a better quality of life and live longer directly linked to their engagement in the programme – the programme continued to show its relevance and impact during the COVID-19 pandemic, responding to massive uncertainty with solutions that served our members, and empowered them to continue to take care of their health, and get rewarded for it

Some of the most recent research in the journal includes a paper produced by Vitality and Wits Sport and Health (WiSH) published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, highlighting how resilient people who exercise regularly are in the face of a pandemic, or any eventuality, and creating an opportunity for leaders to reconsider lockdown policies when considering how best to save lives.

“I am astounded by the impact of the programme on healthy behaviour. Whether it is in helping members develop and sustain protective health behaviours, to financial wellbeing and more, Vitality is life-changing for those who engage with it,” says Govender.

A model for all businesses

Globally, there has been a fundamental shift in business. Companies are expected to align their goals with societal benefits and to put purpose, rather than profit, at the centre of their business model. Interestingly, this has always been the basis of the Vitality model.

Gore adds: “The insurance industry has a unique role in building more resilient communities. Apart from government, insurance is the only entity that can tangibly monetise improved health outcomes. However, most insurance models fail to account for the change in insurance risk from pre-existing conditions to human behaviour. In contrast, the Vitality Shared-Value Insurance model focuses on behavioural components that decrease risk, offers clients a range of personal pathways to help reduce their personal risks, and rewards them in the process.

“This creates a virtuous cycle, as people engage in Vitality and improve their behaviours, our business benefits and society thrives. This is the model that we have scaled around the world and why Vitality is now in 37 markets, reaching more than 20 million lives,” he says.

An evolution of the ecosystem

Govender says that Vitality is meant to positively influence every aspect of life for those who engage with the programme. “Today, Vitality has evolved into three programmes: Vitality Health, Vitality Drive and Vitality Money, with hundreds of partners who help us reward members. The journal explains how this model works – for you, for society and for us as a purpose-led, shared-value business.”

“Our aim is to protect not only our members, but the broader South African population, as well as people in the other markets that Vitality is involved in. Therefore, we have consolidated both independent and internal research that validates the programme’s positive impact. The Science of Vitality journal explains the “why” and “how” we make people healthier,” says Govender.

Read The Science of Vitality journal.

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About Discovery

Discovery Limited is a South African-founded financial services organisation that operates in the healthcare, life insurance, short-term insurance, savings and investment, and wellness markets. Since inception in 1992, Discovery has been guided by a clear core purpose – to make people healthier and to enhance and protect their lives. This has manifested in its globally recognised Vitality Shared-value Insurance model, active in over 35 markets with over 20 million members. The model is exported and scaled through the Global Vitality Network, an alliance of some of the largest insurers across key markets, including Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America and South America.

In 2021, Vitality Health International (VHI) introduced shared-value health insurance to employer groups operating in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia, as well as Travel for Treatment service to the rest of Africa.

Discovery trades on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange as DSY. Discovery Group is the holding company of Vitality Group in the USA and of Vitality UK.


About Discovery Vitality

Vitality is the largest global platform for behaviour change, underpinning the insurance products of leading insurers worldwide, with more than 20 million members in over 35 markets. The Vitality model, established by Discovery Limited in South Africa, has been incentivising behaviour change amongst its clients for over 25 years. Vitality creates shared value by combining behavioural economics, clinical science, and financial incentives to encourage and reward members for taking steps to improve their health. The model began with a focus on health and wellness, and has expanded to include short-term insurance, investments and financial wellness. For more information, please visit the Vitality website or email the Discovery Media Relations team.


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