8/04/2022 | BlogPost
One fateful day in 2017 in Rome, Dr. Lisa Gualtieri of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston and our CEO Roberto Ascione crossed paths when both were speakers at a conference on shaping the future of pediatrics.
Between Lisa’s passion for technology (and Lake Como!) as the Director of the Certificate Program in Digital Health Communication and founder of RecycleHealth two years earlier, and Roberto’s dedication as a digital health pioneer, globally recognized thought leader, people-inspiring founder, and serial entrepreneur, they clicked instantly and have collaborated and supported each other professionally ever since.
RecycleHealth is a fantastic program that reduces e-waste while supporting underserved populations by helping them obtain wearable health tracking technologies they likely wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Equally practical and feel-good in its mission, the 501(c)(3) charity takes in used and new trackers of all brands and styles, then donates them to community programs, senior centers, homeless shelters, and other organizations.
Run by Lisa with the help of interns and volunteer grad students, RecycleHealth has grown exponentially thanks to national media coverage that has included ABC News, the Boston Globe, CNBC, Boston Magazine, and AARP, who awarded Lisa the Purpose Prize in 2018.
Healthware gave RecycleHealth a boost over the holidays with its hugely successful "Blue Box of Good" social media campaign. Playing on the square of Healthware’s logo, the campaign encouraged participants to post a creative photo using a provided pattern or any other 3-D blue box, representing happy things and global access to digital health for everyone.
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In addition to donating the company’s entire holiday video budget in lieu of creating 2021’s addition to an ongoing tradition (and crowd favorite), Healthware donated an additional amount for each share. In the end, the campaign generated over 5000 shares on various channels and the donation ultimately came to an impressive $3339 USD.
We recently had an opportunity to chat with Lisa about RecycleHealth’s ongoing success and the direction it’s heading during a rare lull in her busy schedule. From start to finish, the pleasure was all ours, so keep reading for some fun facts, interesting twists, and info on how to donate trackers!
HWG: RecycleHealth has donated over 5,000 trackers in the last four years – where have they all come from?
Lisa: Everywhere! We get individual donations from people who who’ve upgraded their trackers, are decluttering, or received new ones as gifts – the three months following Christmas are our biggest donation period by far. Up to a third of trackers are abandoned within the first six months, so we get a lot that have never actually been used…"one man’s junk is another man’s treasure" if you will.
We also have vendors who send us entire boxes of last year’s models, corporate wellness program administrators who donate their overpurchased inventory, and companies like healthcare data developer Thryve in Berlin, whose employees were so inspired by our mission that they scoured their offices for extra trackers and sent an entire box of them to us all the way from Germany!
Probably the most fun donation we’ve received though, was from the Lost & Found department of the world’s largest roller coaster. Every night when the park closes, they round up of all of the various things that have fallen off people or out of their pockets, which includes trackers of all brands, sizes, and models. They hold onto them for a set amount of time – a few months, I believe – then donate them, and we were thrilled they chose us.
HWG: What’s been your biggest challenge?
Lisa: The pandemic. Most of the digital health world was able to adapt and ultimately even thrive in many areas, but as a charity, our organization relies heavily on interns and volunteer grad students to process and sort the incoming trackers, and ship the outgoing ones, so when the university shut down, I effectively lost my staff. RecycleHealth is not a one-person job, so it was on hold until things opened back up.
HWG: What has been your biggest surprise?
Lisa: Honestly, the sheer impact that the donated trackers can have on the lives of the people we give them to is the most rewarding aspect of what we do. Some of the stories are incredibly moving, especially with homeless shelter and senior center recipients.
Many of them are digitally illiterate and most have never downloaded an app in their lives. To see them walk out of the room with a working tracker and watch how empowered it makes them feel is incredible. Their excitement is contagious.
We had one man who lost 100 lbs in a year and transformed not only his life, but his entire family’s – his wife, son, and daughter – not to mention the countless friends he inspired. There’s a ripple effect for sure. Literally, in one case…the YMCA in Mystic, Connecticut has a group of senior women who swim together, and when one got a donated Fitbit, they all got on board!
HWG: What does the future look like for RecycleHealth?
Lisa: That’s been a question we’ve been working on answering ourselves. Because I’m still teaching and having to utilize technology in new ways myself – while planning lectures and grading assignments – the day-to-day administration of RecycleHealth will most likely shift to my protégé –and we’ll determine what our path forward looks like from there.
The digital health world is evolving at lightning speed, and the importance of the data wearables collect is growing, as are the real-world ways to utilize them, such as in medication management and adherence. The days of being purely fitness-focused are in the past, and while that’s still a core component of their function, they do so much more now.
HWG: What was your first wearable and what’s your current go-to?
Lisa: My first tracker was a Nike FuelBand, followed by many (many!) Fitbits, and I now have a Withings device that I’m loving both the look and functionality of.
HWG: How can people donate or let you know about individuals or groups in need of wearables?
Lisa: The best way for people to donate trackers is by utilizing our website, which has guidelines on what we can accept and a link to our mailing label, which you can download, print, and attach to your package.
As a volunteer-managed 501(c)(3) organization, we also rely on monetary donations support shipping costs, intern assistant time, accessory replacement, and more, so you can learn more about how we use them to run RecycleHealth on our web page, or just jump straight to the donation page.