Patient Engagement

Q&A: Do voting habits reflect health? Welltok’s Chris Coloian pipes in

It’s getting closer and closer, and Trump is remarkably keeping his lead in the polls. Could that have something to do with what voters had for dinner or when they last exercised?


Does our health have a connection to how we might vote in the upcoming election? According to Welltok’s Chris Coloian, Chief Solutions Officer at Welltok, it sure does.

It’s getting closer and closer, and Trump is remarkably keeping his lead in the polls. Could that have something to do with what voters had for dinner or when they last exercised?

“Based on population health research, it is widely known that an active and involved individual in their community are generally healthier and utilize less healthcare resources,” Coloian said. “At Welltok, we strive to understand consumers and assist them in their personal health optimization, and have found through our analytics work that individuals who are active in their communities as exhibited by voting in non-presidential elections are 20% less likely to need hospital care in the next 12 months.”

Coloian shared some additional insights in an interview:

Where the did the idea for this research come from and what have you found thus far?

The first thing, as we work in the healthcare quality and optimization space, it’s been known that more active individuals are healthier and engaged in their communities. There is a lot of research that’s been done that looks at health indexes and community involvement. Through valid surveys, we can see that there is a correlation.

Do you think these people are healthier already, which gives them motivation to be involved, or that being involved actually affects their health as well?

If you’re asking whether its causal or correlative, the answer is that it’s both. If I’m an unhealthy person and I move to a healthier community, my health generally improves. There’s a social nature for all of us – and that includes whether connect while on a walk or at home eating cookies.

The power of social challenges is important in healthcare as we are expanding areas of progress. We need to have powerful social influences.

So for us, we are looking to find out how we can really further understand how we know that about individuals and communities beyond gross macro surveys and assessments. So we use the same data that is used in consumer marketing and financial services.

We start to look at what behaviors, like being active or engaged in a community, match up with someone being healthier.

It turns out voting presidential elections indicated that a person was highly motivated, which indicates health in some ways. Healthier communities utilize information and generally look more for various sources.

Was this a survey put together by Welltok?

No. This was put together by using other survey research conducted looking at determinants of health. They show that being active and being engaged are social determinants.

Do you find that health might in some way correlate with partisanship, not just whether someone votes or not?

The answer to that is that it is a region-by-region phenomenon. While it would be great to have a statement that all Tea Party members are healthier than socialists, that’s not the case. It’s different by geography. For example, a southern democrat is not the same a New England democrat.

I am just curious if this data indicates more than who votes and who doesn’t, but more of a look at regional diets alongside political affiliation.

You are being insightful that it goes to other determinants – whether its party affiliation or social demographic. We look at other things, for example the government has looked at who has access to nutritional food, fresh food and vegetables, across the country. That access also plays a role in health.

I wonder if being conscious/proactive when it comes to health and politics (voting) has more to do with personality type than anything else. What are your thoughts?

I’m not a social researcher, but I think from what I’ve read and what we’ve seen, it goes beyond that. It goes to beliefs and social structure. You see this with adoption of things like technology and social media as well. That adoption plays into your sphere, so we are getting in touch with a network effect that does goes beyond personality.

Photo: Flickr user Theresa Thompson