Health Podcast Post

Get Healthy Stay Healthy with Jeff Ruby

George Grombacher November 24, 2022

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Get Healthy Stay Healthy with Jeff Ruby

LifeBlood: We talked about to get healthy and stay healthy, a new paradigm of healthcare and treating chronic conditions, taking a holistic approach to wellness, and how to get started, with Jeff Ruby, Founder and CEO of Newtopia.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher


Jeff Ruby

Episode Transcript

eorge grombacher 0:00
Hey what’s up? It’s George G. And the time is right. welcome today’s guest strong and powerful. Jeff Ruby. Jeff, are you ready to do this?

Unknown Speaker 0:22
Couldn’t be more ready. Come

george grombacher 0:23
on. All right. Good morning. Jeff is the founder and CEO of Newtopia. They are the habit change provider helping people to prevent reverse, slow the progression of chronic disease and mental health problems while enriching performance. Jeff, I’m excited to have you on tell us a little about your personal life some more about your work and why you do what you do.

Unknown Speaker 0:43
Yeah, it’s great, great to be here. I’ve really dedicated myself to the health innovation space over the last 20 years across four different startups that I found it all a little bit accidental, I got here, after losing my dad to cancer at a young age and coming to the realization that what we call healthcare has very little to do with keeping healthy people healthy. And it’s almost everything to do with managing illness once it arrives. And I thought that was kind of backward and wanted to do something about it. The second major lesson came sitting in the oncologist office with my dad, first appointment, he was like, Doc, how did I get this and the oncologist comes back with you know, Mr. Ruby, a lot of this has to do with some unlucky genes and your lifestyle choices, which I must admit, in that moment, I had no idea what he was talking about. But I also had no idea where I would learn about my genes or have a sense of what healthy lifestyle choices meant for me. So I had this moment of terror that I could easily be sitting in his seat at some point. And I’ve been really scratching that itch about how can we make health care about keeping healthy people healthy? And how can we do that by helping people understand their genes, and providing direction around the right lifestyle choices to stay healthy?

george grombacher 1:57
What a terrible experience. So I’m sorry about that?

Unknown Speaker 2:02
Well, thanks. You know, sometimes it takes sometimes it takes some lousy things to rile up the passion to go after change in things that don’t make sense. And that was that was the case for me.

george grombacher 2:14
Yeah. So is it possible to know, Is it is it worthwhile to explore the breakdown between genes and lifestyle choice?

Unknown Speaker 2:28
I mean, I would say absolutely, in that, you know, for the most parts, you know, most of our human health is made up of some social determinants. So what we’re born where we live, you know, zip code and etc. There’s a genetic component, that’s contributory. But the vast majority, people may debate somewhere between 60 70% is due to the decisions and the behaviors and ultimately, the habits that we develop every day and around eating, exercise and mental and emotional health. And so if by understanding the genes you’ve inherited, it can help to shape the decisions we make and the behaviors that we adopt, and the habits we adopt each and every day around their lifestyle. And we’re giving ourselves the best chance possible to live healthy and most importantly, to prevent things like obesity, type two diabetes, heart disease, cancer, musculoskeletal issues on the mental health, depression, anxiety, you know, mood disorders, all are rooted heavily in that that lifestyle genetic equation that I was just talking about,

george grombacher 3:35
got a 30 to 40%. It could be is my genes that are going to be informing how my body responds to the environmental factors that that are introduced to it. So how do I know about that? What what, what kind of testing do we do?

Unknown Speaker 3:53
So I mean, at Newtopia, we’ve we’ve really pioneered in an area, we call genetic engagements and focusing on behavioral genetics. And so unlike a lot of genetic testing that has emerged over the past couple of decades, which have had roots in either ancestry, pretty cool, or disease risk, also pretty interesting. We felt that there was a another opportunity to look at a narrow range of genes to help answer two fundamental questions, the first, have I inherited risk factors for my parents that could be impacting my weight lifestyle, namely, so I can stop blaming myself? Because at the root of so much of this attempt to live healthy is this fight we have against Am I worthy? Am I good enough? Can I do this? And if I tried and failed a number of times and failure becomes the only answer, then it seems to be that it’s my fault. And we found that the genetic aha, this, oh, it’s maybe not my fault, quite frankly, maybe more to blame our parents on but that’s a whole other story. But just this idea is not my fault is pretty powerful. And it leads to the second question, which is how do we are individuals with a greater sense of control over what to do about it? How do we shape the very recommendations we provide for nutrition for exercise for mental and emotional health, so that we can stack and build new durable habits and get the maximum buy in from individuals. And so that’s really what genetic engagement is about the simple spit test, sort of little saliva and outcome, the answers, it’s not a silver bullet, it’s not as if you get them in your life changes, it’s actually the starting point for then how to shape the new behaviors and new habits that are formed. And that’s what’s really important.

george grombacher 5:34
So that’s as simple as it is, it’s a split test, I probably do it in my house and I send it in or go in,

Unknown Speaker 5:42
either or we’ll we’ll send it to you, or you can participate on site clinic or a little neighborhood pharmacy, whatever is convenient for you ultimately. But the key is, is the answer is inherent. And it’s that Aha, it’s that that buy in, because this is ultimately being built from you for you, as opposed to some generic curriculum or guideline, which is not been designed for anyone particular.

george grombacher 6:10
I think that is a super powerful and super important thing right there from you for you. Now we know, I could stop wondering, pointing fingers blaming, this is my fault. It’s somebody else’s fault. Now, now we know. And now we can put together a program thoughts on how we can get to where you want to go.

Unknown Speaker 6:33
Yeah, that’s exactly right. And so when you combine that genetic awareness with understanding about the social determinants and digging deeper into an individual’s personality type, things like readiness to change and motivation and personality, you now have the building blocks for really personalizing these experiences, they’re all virtual, but they combine access and matching to a human being. We call them in spriters, that Newtopia they’re really coaches with superpowers, because they have all of this awareness about you. And then we put together the right plan. So the building blocks of the right nutrition recommendations, exercise recommendations, mental and emotional health recommendations, and then provide the right technology, really simple to use. It could be mobile, it could be web based, it could be phone based, depending on where the individual is coming from, will surround that individual with the right technology to monitor this things like a smart scale, an activity tracker, a continuous glucose monitor blood pressure cuff, depending on what we’re trying to monitor. And then we’ll go further and make sure there’s the right kind of gaming to keep it fun and motivational based on what makes that person tick. And finally, we want to introduce a small community of others, people just like yourself trying to live healthy, who you can gain encouragement and support from and ultimately, that, that, you know, what I just described is all built one by one by one. And so we don’t claim that we have to answer before we’ve met you. Rather, we become a student of you. And as we do, then we build this entire engagement framework around you. And if you will, the goal is not just to have fun, although fun is really important. It’s so that at the end of a specific period of time, we look at it year chunk, so at the end of 12 months or 24 months, we want that engagement to have a positive impact across physical risks, things like your waist circumference, blood pressure, blood glucose, triglycerides, cholesterol, and mental and emotional risk factors around anxiety, depression, mood and resilience. And ultimately, we as a company go at risk that we put our fees at risk to make sure that those risk reduction factors show up. If they do we get paid. If we don’t, we don’t.

george grombacher 8:55
Well, that’s awesome. So everything you just laid out is I mean, I know very little about what’s required to do the change that you are describing. But it makes all the sense in the world to me that you combine all of those things. So I appreciate that. Tell me more about the the fee at risk piece.

Unknown Speaker 9:15
This was really important to us. And again, so much of sickcare is is based on misaligned incentives. Oftentimes when you look at things like fee for service, and or just just the way that healthcare providers are paid versus what the outcome should be, aren’t necessarily aligned. And so we’ve been building Newtopia. We wanted to make sure that there was alignment there was a win win win between ourselves, the people who pay with your generally health insurers, they are the employers or health insurers who pay on behalf of employees and members. And of course, then the participants. Those are the individuals we’re trying to help. So George, we spent three years in a large scale randomized control trial before selling this to anyone really proving the efficacy of this approach proving that we could reduce those risk factors that in so doing, we could lower costs and have a meaningful impact on individuals. And so this at risk model is it’s a little bit unique, but it’s really putting us in the position of being performance based and value based. We’re trying to tie ourselves to outcomes that are important to the health insurer, important to the individual. And if they win, then we should win. But if they don’t win, then we shouldn’t win. And unfortunately, there isn’t as much of that alignment today, the $4.2 trillion in us sick care is largely made up of misaligned incentives. And we thought we’d be part of the alternative solution to align those incentives.

george grombacher 10:53
Are you work in to partner with some of those insurance companies? Are they for this? Are they against it?

Unknown Speaker 11:01
Yeah, no, very much. So where the partnerships are really important. And I would say there’s been an emergence of some innovative insurers on the employer side and on the private side that have realized that the many years spent focusing on their employees or members with chronic disease, they’ve been through that, and then focusing on the worried well, if you will, everyone else with general wellness, and challenges have only gone gone so far. But yet, there’s this incremental creep of eight to 12% year over year cost, which is only been exacerbated and made worse by the pandemic, realizing that there’s this group in the middle, it’s the roughly 50 to 70% of the population who aren’t sick. But who aren’t? Well, we’re sitting with these risk factors out of range. And that’s very much who we’re focused on, and very much of trying to educate. And, in many ways partner with these innovator health insurers on what can we do to roll back the risk, because we’ve been able to demonstrate that there’s, it’s far easier, in fact, to take someone who’s standing at the edge of the cliff back down, unnecessarily managing the cost down for someone who’s already gone over the cliff.

george grombacher 12:20
That makes a ton of sense. It’s hard to make change, it’s hard to make substantive change. And it sounds as though it’s you’ve not necessarily removed, you’re attempting to remove those barriers that are keeping us from living the life that we want and being happy and healthy and active. Yet people still struggle with it. You mentioned the mental health piece. How do how do beliefs factor in if I don’t believe that I can never be a healthy person? Is is is is your program going to solve that? Or do I need to shift that?

Unknown Speaker 13:01
I think it’s pretty fundamental. And it’s somewhat comes back to what we were talking about a little earlier in the power of that genetic engagement. And that power of that aha moments, I think, in many ways, the beliefs that we come into this, sometimes are quite self defeating, and they have been formed by either failing or banging into the sickcare system. I think our attempt is to very much get to know individuals and to be there to inspire to motivate the whole premise of nutopia is that it’s an it’s an aspiration, living healthy as a journey that we’re on, it’s lifelong, it never ends. But it takes inspiring individuals that they can do it, they are the engine, they are the spark. And I think if we could, we need a little bit more that especially in these days, when oftentimes there’s a finger pointed that you’re at fault, we like to come at it from a slightly different perspective, which is let’s let’s get to know you, let’s help you understand yourself. And then let’s together really inspire a different journey and a different path. And it’s small, right? There’s small incremental changes that we’re talking about, you know, really step by step, breadcrumbs around the way we eat, the way we’re active, the way we manage our mental and emotional health. And the amazing thing happens is that as we build confidence and individuals, you know, and move away from that self defeating beliefs that and really have people see that they can do it, they become the engine, they become the snowball, and we just stand along and cheer and and, and in roar that snowball on and that’s, that’s really the whole point if we do it right.

george grombacher 14:48
How confident are you that somebody comes off the street joins your program follows it and do dramatically improved their health. And,

Unknown Speaker 15:03
you know, well 100% Confident. And the reason I am is because we’ve put our fees at risk to do it. So we don’t exist as a company as a business unless we do exactly that. And so I’d have to be just a little bit crazy to put all of our views at risk, if we didn’t think we could deliver or else we wouldn’t have been here for the last 15 years. So I would say, the the model itself demonstrates just how committed we are to believing in people and believing in our ability to get to know individuals to shape and build new durable habits that will have a lasting impact, not only in 12 months, that grows over time, for the benefit, of course of the individual. And then for the benefit of the employer or insurer who’s financially responsible, it truly is a win win win. And because of this approach, we’re generating some of the best engagement rates in the industry of individuals who stay with this for 12 months for 24 months for 36 or 48. We have individuals during their 60th month, five years, committed to their own journey of self improvement. And we’ve demonstrated why the economics work for their employer insurer to continue funding that for all that time.

george grombacher 16:21
Love it. Well, I think that that’s fantastic. If there’s, you know, better than certainly way better than I do that there’s so many folks out there who probably feel hopeless, and feel like I’m just not somebody who can do that. And this is sort of my lot in life, and I’m stuck here, but it’s just not the case.

Unknown Speaker 16:39
So it’s not humans, we have a lot of we have a lot of challenging factors, but one of the innately incredible things about ourselves in our brains is the ability to transform and the ability to continue to adapt. But it does take someone to believe in us, right, our insurer, our employer, a team like Newtopia, to just provide that right encouragement. And it may sound cliche and a little bit corny, but I do think when people believe in people, and when people inspire others, and it does require people, this isn’t just bots, and this isn’t just tech being thrown out, or apps being thrown out. There are real people alongside great technology, who were there to help one another. Really amazing things can take place.

george grombacher 17:24
Yeah, I think that’s really well said is that How to Win Friends and Influence People. It’s give somebody great reputation to live up to. And I know that that’s happened several times in my life that I can point to somebody put their arm around me and said, You can do this, you’re capable of doing that. And it sticks with you for the rest of your life. So there is immense value. And it’s so true that we do need somebody that that believes in us that can help inspire us and and then we need the actual support and the framework to be able to back that up. And then to follow through and create those you what you call durable habits. So

Unknown Speaker 18:04
absolutely great. Love it.

george grombacher 18:08
Well, Jeff, I’m super grateful for all your work and how, how many years has this been in the making.

Unknown Speaker 18:16
So Newtopia has been on a what feels like an epic journey. Sometimes, you know, introducing primary prevention into a dominant sick care system is no easy feat. Figuring out how to get it done, and then who’s going to pay for it and then how to sell it to those who have largely been focusing on sick cares. It’s been a journey. So we’ve been at this for about 15 years, we started out direct to consumer learned some hard lessons that individuals typically don’t pay out of their pocket to prevent chronic disease sometime in the future. We then began working with different employers and insurers trying to figure out the right profile. Of course, we ran into the pandemic where a lot of people got distracted, putting out a very big fire, which to certain certain extent is still, you know, burning a little bit. And so we continue to charge on and evolve but with incredible innovation partners today, you know, some of the biggest leaders in and around their space. We’ve partnered with us and been been with us for a long time. And so we continue to move forward and hope we can be this catalyst for focusing on prevention and health care about keeping healthy people healthy. As a as a starting point, a new front door if you will. I love it.

george grombacher 19:41
Jeff, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage with Newtopia?

Unknown Speaker 19:46
Yeah, it’s simple. You know, I think our website is probably the first place to start Newtopia and ew T O P is a great place. We are available to employees or members of insurance companies. So if you’re interested, please talk to your benefits team and or your insurer about why they should be focusing on that nutopia. And we hope to be able to really continue to grow and expand and help a whole lot of folks who are sitting at risk today.

george grombacher 20:15
Excellent. If you enjoyed as much as I did, so Jeff, your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to It’s an E W T O P i And talk to your employee benefit leaders at your organization about bringing Newtopia and to the organization and get the process started. Thanks again, Jeff.

Unknown Speaker 20:42
Thank you, really great to be here.

george grombacher 20:44
And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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