Apple Is Already Your Fitness Coach. Can It Be Your Cardiologist Too?

The number of Apple stores makes the company an accessible spot for health outreach

Erin Schumaker
OneZero
Published in
5 min readFeb 28, 2019

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Credit: NOAH BERGER/Getty Images Plus

“W“Williamsburg, can you give it up?” Celebrity fitness expert Jeanette Jenkins gives a rallying cry as she leads a throng of approximately 30 Apple Watch users — including a number of Apple store employees — on a brisk walk around Brooklyn’s trendy Williamsburg neighborhood. The group responds with cheers, and Jenkins circles up the group at intervals so that Jay Blahnik, senior director of fitness at Apple, can answer questions about the Apple Watch’s fitness tracking capabilities.

This jaunt around the Brooklyn neighborhood is part of Apple’s heart health panel and fitness event at its Williamsburg-based store on February 21. The event is the latest in a series of health moves by the tech company, including teaming up with Stanford Medicine on the 400,000-participant Apple Heart Study and getting clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to add two heart monitoring features on the Apple Series 4 Watch. Apple CEO Tim Cook has promised to make health the company’s “greatest contribution to mankind.” Add in the tech giant’s vast network of retail stores, and it has the scope to make a major difference for health care and medicine.

“I’m always a little skeptical about the altruism of companies when they have products in the area.”

“I became a doctor to have impact,” said Sumbul Desai, MD, vice president of health at Apple and clinical associate professor at Stanford Medicine. “To be able to do that at scale is such an amazing opportunity.”

But some health experts worry that Apple’s business demands may supersede the company’s interest in advancing public health and promoting evidence-based medicine. “I’m always a little skeptical about the altruism of companies when they have products in the area,” says Venkatesh Murthy, MD, an associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Michigan Medicine. Apple’s promotion of heart health and fitness is “undeniably a good message,” he adds, “but it’s not without strings.”

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