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RecycleHealth: What to do with that unused wearable

Did you receive a wearable as a gift over the holidays? Turns out there’s a good chance that, after about six months, you won’t be using it anymore and it will end up in a drawer somewhere.

In fact, a survey done by Endeavour Partners, a consulting firm based in Cambridge, Mass., found that a third of wearable owners stop using them within six months.

Juxtapose this with the fact that many people who could benefit from using wearables can’t afford them, and it’s clear a solution is needed to fill that gap.

That’s what RecycleHealth, a non-profit associated with Tufts University started in the spring of 2015 by Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM, assistant professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts, aims to do by taking peoples’ used wearables and giving them to people who can’t afford them.

So far, Gualtieri said she’s working with several groups including ones at the Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center in Chinatown, the Leominster Community Health Center, the Montachusett YMCA in Fitchburg, and the Jubilee Church in Mattapan.

“I think that cost is a real barrier for a lot of people,” Gualtieri said. “Some of it is just based on how much discretionary income they have, and some of it is based on: How much of a commitment are you going to make to something that you don’t really know is going to be valuable, helpful to you in achieving your health goals?”

Gualtieri first met the women from the Jubilee Church at the Whole Heart Health Fair. Gualtieri’s colleague from Tufts, Dr. Linda Hudson, was working with the group on improving cardiovascular health and Gualtieri decided to attend the event to try to recruit people for a study.

Gualtieri explained that these women were really interested in exercising more in order to improve their cardiovascular health but none of them owned a wearable device “and none of them [had] ever really thought about it.”

Gualtieri added that if people don’t see the value in wearables they won’t invest in them, even if the wearable is not that expensive in the larger scheme of things and especially if they don’t have a lot of extra money. But Gualtieri has noticed that when you offer wearables for free, people who can’t afford them, wouldn’t normally buy them and don’t fully understand the value of these devices, often become excited and are willing to try them, giving them the chance learn how wearables can benefit and help them improve their health.

RecycleHealth has boxes in various locations where people can donate their used wearables including at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Milton High School in Milton, Mass., Emory University in Atlanta, , and  a number of other places. People can also mail their used wearables directly to RecycleHealth using postage-paid labels available on their site.