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Former Zynga Executive David Ko Thinks He Can Turn Health Care Into a Game -- And Win

Rally Health aims to make wellness information more digestible and reward people who make behavioral changes.

There is no shortage of products that can tell you how few steps you took or how little sleep you got. Missing, though, are easy-to-use tools to make sense of the data and take action, or so says former Yahoo and Zynga executive David Ko.

David Ko
David Ko

Ko is president and operating chief of Rally Health, a new venture with majority funding from insurer UnitedHealth Group. Rally’s tools, which typically show up as the wellness portion of a company’s or insurer’s website, create a health score, known as one’s Rally age, and offer suggestions that Ko says can help people improve their scores. In addition, it rewards users with “coins” that can be exchanged for physical goods.

“We try to make [health care] more consumer friendly and more engaging, less of a chore,” Ko told Re/code. For now, Rally’s tools are available from the desktop and mobile Web, Ko said; phone apps are on the way.

Changing behavior, though, is tricky. Plenty of other companies have started and failed with the notion that giving people more information and tips would lead to widespread improvements. But, while the problem may be daunting, the stakes for solving it are huge. Ko said there are already trillions of dollars spent each year on health care, with more than half of those costs going toward preventable ailments.

“We can make a true difference,” Ko said. The company has a little more than 200 employees, based in San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Four-fifths have tech backgrounds, Ko said, while the remainder come from the health industry.

As for Ko, he worked at Yahoo until 2010, when he left for a job as head of mobile at Zynga. He later became chief of operations there before leaving the company in August 2013. He joined Rally the next month, though the company has kept its effort low-key until now.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.