Yesterday, the company, a unit of Toronto-based Manulife, took yet another step on this journey, hosting its first Longevity Symposium in its headquarters city of Boston. John Hancock ratcheted up its investment in improving health by assembling allies in the effort, ranging from Boston Mayor Michelle Wu to regional health care leaders and experts in nutrition, wearables, happiness and improving sleep.
The symposium is an outgrowth of the John Hancock Vitality program. Offered on every John Hancock policy since 2018, Vitality combines life insurance with a technology-enabled program designed to help customers live longer, healthier lives.
The symposium, held over two days at the Intercontinental Boston hotel, is a first step that John Hancock President and CEO Brooks Tingle says could become an annual event. John Hancock is building a number of relationships to expand its longevity efforts. Those in evidence at the symposium included: FitBit, Garmin, and the MIT AgeLab, among others.
In a discussion with Tingle, the mayor described the challenges the city faces and the advantages it has in improving longevity.
The 'best city for families'
“Our focus every day,” said Wu, “is to make Boston the best city for families anywhere in the country. There are a lot of pieces to that around public safety and health and education, jobs, workforce development and climate resiliency, but we know that we have such a rich starting point here in Boston and when it comes to the topic of longevity.
“You won't find a better cluster and longevity economy anywhere, between the life sciences, biotech, pharma, academia, our corporate partners and public sector nonprofits.”
Wu said this is a “moment of such tremendous need,” especially following the pandemic. It’s also a moment “focused on urgency,” she added. “There's a chance through federal programs and funding that have been created – and just the public willingness to get involved and to see change – that we're trying to galvanize and direct into specific tangible next steps here in Boston.”
Challenges in longevity disparity
Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, the executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, talked about the challenges the city of Boston faces. Ojikutu described the disparity in longevity among various population areas in the city.
“Boston is a relatively healthy city compared to the other cities in the U.S. Our life expectancy overall is around 80.2,” but, she said, “We have disparities. We have a neighborhood in Back Bay, which is a neighborhood with higher income, with [life expectancy] of 92.” She compared that to a section of Roxbury, “which is a largely black area with lower income, where it’s like 69. So that's a 23-year life expectancy gap.” And that type of disparity, Ojikutu said, is “common across the U.S.”
Massachusetts General Hospital President Dr. David M.F. Brown also was on hand to laud John Hancock’s efforts and share his thoughts about future of health care delivery. “Health care delivery models respond to the payment models that we, as a society, set up. For decades, our payment models have focused on treating episodes of illness or injury. And we got pretty good at that, but it really doesn't lead to creating a healthier population. Our health care outcomes aren't where we would like them to be for our whole population,” he explained, adding, “It does lead to health care being much more expensive.
Pivoting to 'preventive health care'
“There's a pivot now,” he said, to “preventive health care delivery models designed to create healthier communities – healthier populations of people – and to have the financial models support that… It's really now spreading across the country.”
The founder and director the MIT AgeLab, Dr. Joseph Coughlin was scheduled to present “Living Longer Better: Chargin the social and business opportunities of longevity.” Other sessions included: “The Science of Wearables,” “Sleep is Your Superpower” and “The Power of Home Cooking.”
Tingle said this year’s attendee list was kept to about 200, mostly agents and advisors, as the company worked to produce a successful initial event, but that it could become an annual occurrence in the future.
John Forcucci is InsuranceNewsNet editor-in-chief. He has had a long career in daily and weekly journalism. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @INNJohnF.