How Technology Can Shape Everyday Life to Be Healthier

Woman rides her bike in a European looking city

We live in an age of smartphones, apps, Fitbits, smart watches and other gadgets that can be harnessed to help us become healthy. Since 2014, more than $16B has been invested in 800 startups in the “digital health” space. But what if the role for tech to improve health goes beyond getting us to change our behavior, to adhere to our medication regimens or to improve our care experiences? What if the role of tech runs deeper?

Join Lori Melichar and Steve Downs of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, as they lay out the case for tech to focus on changing the experience of daily lives at a fundamental level and then lead a group discussion to elicit hunches about the interplay of tech, life and health.


Steve Downs

Steve Downs is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s chief technology and strategy officer. In this role, he focuses on the practice of program strategy and on the alignment of the Foundation’s technology strategy and operations with its organizational directions. RWJF’s pursuit of a Culture of Health requires an approach to strategy that is highly flexible and adaptive. In his current role, Downs works with his colleagues to institutionalize an approach to program strategy that is based on the integration of learning, co-creation, and reflection into the processes of strategy development and ongoing strategy assessment and adaptation.

Since being appointed chief technology and information officer in 2011, Downs’ goal has been to ensure that RWJF staff have the resources they need to practice philanthropy at the highest level. He has emphasized technology directions—namely mobility and social CRM—that encourage informal knowledge-sharing, data-informed decision-making, and peer-to-peer engagement.

Since joining RWJF in 2002, Downs’ career at RWJF has proceeded along two parallel paths: management and programming. Along his management path, he served as the first team leader of the RWJF Pioneer portfolio, helping to shape the portfolio’s direction and initial body of work. From 2007 to 2011, Downs served as the assistant vice president of the Health Group. In this position, he worked with the senior vice president of the Health Group to oversee the Foundation’s strategies and investments in the areas of childhood obesity, public health, tobacco control, and support for vulnerable populations. He also played a key role in helping to shape and articulate the Foundation’s vision for transitioning to a “Web 2.0” philanthropy, one based on values of openness, participation, and decentralization.


Lori Melichar

Lori Melichar, a labor economist, is a director at the Foundation where for 5 years she has led a team focused on anticipating the future and discovering, exploring and learning from cutting edge ideas with the potential to help create a Culture of Health. She is also the host of the Foundation’s Pioneering Ideas podcast.

Previously at the Foundation, Melichar managed several programs to focus a broad research community on studies to improve health and health care policy and practice, and was a key driver of efforts to advance the science of quality improvement (QI) research and evaluation. Prior to joining the Foundation in 2002, she served with the National Institutes of Child Health and Development and the Demography of Inequality initiative at the University of Maryland Center on Population, Gender and Inequality. Melichar also worked at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals as a consultant and economic policy analyst and at the Project Hope Center for Health Affairs.

She holds a PhD and MA in economics from the University of Maryland at College Park and a BA in economics from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. An Oklahoma native, Melichar resides in New York City with her husband and three children.