Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, more members than ever are tapping into Wellvolution, which launched a year ago. Engagement has spiked as much as 10 times compared to before the public health crisis, and in March 2020 the program had the highest account creation since June 2019.
For each of the 23,500 Blue Shield of California members who have enrolled in our redesigned Wellvolution in the last year, there is a compelling story about why they signed up for this innovative program. Captured here are just a few examples of about the different factors that motivated our members to change their lifestyle, the goals they set for themselves, and the positive side effects that surprised them, which were due to their new approach to health, body movement and mindfulness about the food they eat.
“I never knew I was eating foods – for years – that aggravated my asthma and allergies until I started Wellvolution,” said Abebi Bain, 47, an elementary school teacher in Covina using the Betr Health app. “I had gained weight over the past few years and had developed sleep apnea and acid reflux in addition to my other issues. Nothing I did seemed to help me and unfortunately, I was taking five medications a day! But once I started using the Betr Health app, I discovered how to eat the right foods for my body and avoid ‘triggers’ that caused problems. I lost 23 pounds in my first month, my sleep apnea disappeared, and my asthma, allergies and acid reflux were under control. Now, I haven't taken any of my medications in over seven months, and my stress levels are way down! People tell me I look younger, and I feel it. My aches and pains have significantly diminished and I can actually wear my high heels again for hours without feeling knee pain!”
Overweight, with Type 2 diabetes, Rick Fowler, 60, had previously undergone bariatric surgery to address his diabetes and weight. It didn’t work, and he was restricted in what and how much he could eat. As the COVID-19 pandemic was escalating in March, Rick discovered Wellvolution and the Virta Health digital app, and enrolled. A retired Air Force crew chief, Rick was taking two medicines to treat his diabetes and one to address his high cholesterol at that time. Between mid-March and May 31, he lost 19 pounds through the Virta app, which restricts carbohydrates, and his diabetes has improved. Rick’s doctor has already eliminated one of his diabetes medications and may reduce the second one as his progress continues.
“During this pandemic, I may not always be able to get toilet paper, but I can certainly find the foods that fit with my Wellvolution/Virta eating plan,” said Rick. “And lots of cream cheese. Virta had me at cream cheese! If I can start in the middle of a pandemic, anyone should be able to start at any time.”
Shirley Harris wants to start a family and knew she needed to get control of her health to address her specific health problem. She has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which can impact her ability to get pregnant, and she was significantly overweight, which compounded her challenge. “ For most of my life I have eaten completely wrong – sodas, fast foods and sugary things - and just denied what it was doing to me. But I finally ran out of excuses. Being overweight is one of the things that makes PCOS worse, so I wanted to remove that obstacle,” said Shirley, 32, an executive assistant. During the pandemic, Shirley signed up for Wellvolution and Digbi Health in March and began using the program consistently in April.
“Through Digbi Health’s genetic and gut-biome testing process, I learned I was lactose intolerant and glucose intolerant, which I didn’t know. This had been impacting my health my whole life,” she said. “In just a few months I have completely reinvented myself. Wellvolution and Digbi Health made it so easy to focus on my whole lifestyle. The digital app really held me accountable. I have completely changed the foods and portion sizes I eat, and the amount of exercise I do. I never exercised before! I started with a 10 minute walk every day and now I exercise six times a week for 60 minutes every day. I’m a new woman!”
Stephanie Ventura suffered from anxiety, depression, migraine headaches, and other health issues. Relief came when she started Wellvolution as the COVID-19 pandemic was escalating in February. Stephanie, 27, is a teacher’s aide for special-education students, and was matched with Betr Health. “ Since learning what foods cause inflammation and irritation to my body, I’ve seen big improvements with my sleep, anxiety and depression. My mood is so much better, and so is my concentration,” she says. “During quarantine it has helped to have something to focus on and achieve. I live with my family, and they have noticed my new healthy lifestyle and its impact. I’m now sharing my recipes and healthy eating strategies with them. I’m also physically active and enjoying new hobbies like painting, beading and craft work.”
Angel Durazo, 55, is a high school principal with elevated stress levels and eating habits that contributed to weight problems, high blood pressure and sleep apnea, as well as the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Since joining Wellvolution and using the Betr Health app, results for Angel have come quickly, which motivated him to keep going with the program. “I’ve lost 50 pounds, my stress levels are way down and my blood pressure has improved a lot. My doctor may reduce or eliminate my medication if my health trend continues,” he said. “Also, my aches are gone and my sleep apnea is gone. I no longer need my CPAP machine!” he said. (A CPAP machine helps people with sleep apnea breath more easily and regularly while they are sleeping.)
“This is a complete change of lifestyle for me; it is not a diet. I have learned to live a healthier life and to enjoy foods that are good for my body and my mind. This experience has proved to me that food and lifestyle can really make a difference in your health. Now I crave salads, not the sweets or hamburgers I used to want before I started Wellvolution.”
Obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, risk of Type 2 diabetes, pain from a former broken back and a sedentary lifestyle due to recovery have plagued Emily Morales, 33, an intake therapist working on a PhD in clinical psychology. She enrolled in Wellvolution and the Digbi Health app last year and started seeing improvements quickly.
“The gut-biome and genetics results I got from Digbi Health were critical to keep me motivated and they also provided some surprises,” said Emily. “I have an Indigenous Mexican heritage and learned that eating a European diet (meat-heavy, wheat heavy, and small vegetable portions) wasn’t good for my body. I also learned I was allergic to several types of foods, like almonds, olives some oils and gluten. They were causing inflammatory problems for me.”
Emily has lost 23 pounds and now eats the right foods for her genetics.“I have a lot more energy and greater focus for my work and academic goals.”