The Well-Being Journal

The Global Obesity Epidemic Requires a 360° Solution: Dr. Jim Pope at the Milken Institute Global Conference

Jennifer Rudloff

Jim Pope_Milken Institute_Global ConferenceYesterday, Healthways Vice President and Chief Science Officer, Dr. James Pope, participated in a panel discussion, “Weight of the World: Strategies to Fight the Global Obesity Epidemic,” at the Milken Institute Global Conference.

Each year, the Milken Conference convenes hundreds of business leaders, Nobel Prize winners, scientists, educators, philanthropists, and other global decision-makers to discuss their provocative opinions and fresh insights. The Conference delves into urgent challenges facing the world, from the economy, to health care, to energy, to education. Attendees not only debate issues, but also help move policy towards solutions.

Moderated by Reuters Senior Health and Science Correspondent Sharon Begley, the panel – including Kent Bradley, Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer, Safeway Inc.; Francine Kaufman, Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Global Medical, Clinical and Health Affairs, Medtronic Diabetes; and David Kirchhoff, President and CEO, Weight Watchers International Inc. – aimed to find out.

During the panel, Dr. Pope and the others discussed the severity and rapid growth of the global obesity epidemic and its implications on public health, productivity, human capital formation and economic development. In addition, they talked about the causes and solutions and how businesses and other leaders can support interventions.

We know that – although obesity rates in European countries such as Germany and the U.K are lower than the U.S. obesity rate – obesity is a global problem. During the panel, Dr. Pope noted that, while obesity rates in the U.S. may appear to have plateaued, we still maintain an unfortunate trend of shockingly high obesity rates, and the rest of the world is catching up.

So, why is this happening?

Experts on the panel attribute this trend to several factors: we eat out more often and on larger plates, we don’t engage in as much physical activity at our jobs as we used to, and we now produce food much more efficiently, resulting in cheaper calories.

Ultimately, however, Dr. Pope and the panelists presented a light at the end of this tunnel of grim obesity patterns. Personal behaviors really provide the greatest opportunity to improve health and reduce premature death. We can’t depend on our doctors alone. We need to rely on ourselves and on our employers if we want to turn this trend around.

But how can we sustain these programs and their results? In our opinion, a multi-faceted, collaborative approach works best.

As indicated by the Johns Hopkins University POWER Trial, in order to lose weight and combat obesity, more is necessary than physician interaction. We found great results in combining physician advice with telephonic weight-loss guidance from Healthways health coaches. In this case, the doctor was not conveyed as the expert on weight loss – rather, our motivational coaches provided expertise for the patient’s approach to food, exercise, financial management, and life in general. We used this collaborative model to launch our new weight-loss offering, Innergy.

At Healthways, we’re always looking at how to improve the health of our nation, and prevent the progress of unfortunate trends like obesity. Through our Blue Zones initiative, we examine how people live to be older and healthier. Iowa is spearheading the charge and is focused on becoming the healthiest state in the nation through the program. Its communities have come together to support each other in this effort. They know that the U.S. simply cannot afford to keep going in the direction it has been. And they are leading by example.

This panel conveyed that the Milken Institute Global Conference not only provides a forum for scholarly discussion on many subjects; it also provides a forum for hope for the future. To learn more about Healthways efforts to fight U.S. obesity with our collaborative – and effective – approach, click here.

What lessons do you think policy makers should keep in mind as we strive to fight the global obesity epidemic? Share your thoughts here, or tweet us to let us know what you think!

To view the full panel discussion, visit the link below:
Weight of the World: Strategies to Fight the Global Obesity Epidemic

Topics: weight of the world Obesity Weight Loss Innergy Healthcare Prevention Milken Institute Global Conference Healthways Johns Hopkins Events Jim Pope James Pope

Reflections from The HERO

Jennifer Rudloff

A couple of weeks ago the Health Enhancement Research Organization, also known as HERO held its bi-annual Think Tank meeting and Forum (the HERO version of a conference) in Phoenix Arizona. After having some time to reflect on both of those meetings, I would like to share some of my reactions with you. Let me start with the Think Tank.

The Think Tank brings employee health management (EHM) experts together bi-annually to exchange ideas, expertise, and recommendations in an effort to solve problems and react to opportunities. Members of the think tank have a major role in the creation and dissemination of national EHM policy, strategy, leadership and infrastructure. During the most recent session we addressed three subjects: (1) the role of consumer directed initiatives and personal responsibility in health care, (2) the impact of an aging workforce and actions that must be taken both domestically and internationally, and (3) the role of financial incentives in the health management industry. As you might imagine, the use of incentives drew significant debate so let me expound upon that discussion.

Overall the field is fairly supportive of the use of financial incentives to drive participation in health management programs. However, we also agree that while financial incentives can drive participation, little evidence exists to show that financial incentives alone change behavior. The lightning rod seems to be the use of incentives to reward “health outcomes” as it is defined in The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Such incentives reward people for keeping biometrics such as cholesterol, blood pressure, and body fat within reasonable limits. The opinions on this issue varied widely at the HERO Think Tank.

From my experience I know that all employers are different. As the result, I believe America’s employers need the latitude to put in place the incentive programs that work best for them, based on their cultures and their business environments. We do not need further regulation regarding incentives. Instead, the pros and cons of various incentive programs should be evaluated so that employers can make discriminating choices that support the needs of their people and culture. Others may disagree with my perspective. For instance, American Heart Association has distributed position statements taking the view that outcomes-based incentives tied to health plan or self-insured company premium costs are unfair and discriminatory, instead advocating for ‘‘participation-based’’ incentives. Their fear appears to be that such incentives could lead to the mistreatment (including greater cost burden) of people with existing disease. While an understanding view points, current law already provides many safeguards and people who take good care of themselves already pay a disproportionate amount of the health care cost burden.

Regardless of our individual views, the one thing that the think tank fully agrees on is that as an industry, we must speak with a united voice. Articles by Michael O’Donnell, and by Paul Terry and David Anderson have done a nice job of advocating for the “one voice” approach.

The HERO Forum was also an enlightening experience. Highlights were the following:

  • Many companies are going back to the basics. Part of the format at the HERO Forum is to have “How To Do It” workshops where best-practice health management programs are highlighted. This year many of the professionals guiding these programs described how they were getting back to the basics of superior program planning, setting clear objectives, communicating their programs effectively, generating engagement through creative approaches, and measuring outcomes effectively.
  • People were networking and discussing some of the most timely topics in health management. Many good ideas were discussed in areas like the broader view of well-being, program integration, and the impact of work culture on health management success.
  • The research showing the efficacy of health management is continuing to advance and HERO is leading the way.
  • There are many breakthroughs in the area of participant engagement that involve superior communications, incentives, program positioning, and the ability to use new media and technology in the effort.
  • The use of small actions and social media in effectively advancing behavior change was addressed by Chris Cartter, General Manager of MeYou Health, in the closing keynote. Chris provided deep insights into this topic.

Both the HERO Think Tank and the Forum were well attended and the sessions and debate were provocative. If you are not a member of HERO, I urge you to consider getting involved. If you were there, what were your impressions and biggest takeaways?What are your thoughts on the incentive debate? Please share.

Topics: HERO Think Tank Workplace Well-Being Healthcare Engagement Business Performance Health Financial Incentives for Health Management Program Events Health Enhancement Research Organization

Colleagues Care: Martha O'Bryan Center

Jennifer Rudloff

Those who volunteer know that the impact extends beyond the community being served. It makes individuals feel good, encourages team work and collaboration, builds community around a cause, and benefits all aspects of our personal well-being.

Recently ninety members of Healthways health plan team traveled to the Martha O'Bryan Center in Nashville for a day of service. It is the mission of the Martha O'Bryan Center to empower children, youth, and adults in poverty to transform their lives through work, education, employment and fellowship. Inspired by this mission, Healthways colleagues wanted to help. They divided into work teams and conquered some much needed heavy cleaning, weeding, and landscaping and provided school supplies to be used by those in need. By pulling together to accomplish the task at hand, colleagues were able to give the center staff back hundreds of hours allowing them to focus more on the important core work they do. Our team came away feeling inspired about the work they had done, closer as a team, and full of warm fuzzies.

For a first hand account of the day, watch this video:

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OWPrEOF9no']

Given the tough economic times we are living in and the magnitude of natural disasters our nation is experiencing there is no shortage of people in need. How will you help improve our Nation's well-being?

Topics: volunteer Community Healthways Events Community Service Martha O'Bryan Center

NPT Reports: Children's Health Crisis: Mental Health

Jennifer Rudloff

I’ll be honest – I’m not much of a blogger. It’s not that I have anything against it – I guess I just needed to find something I felt was blog-worthy. That part was easy.

It’s been a year and half now since the Healthways Foundation in conjunction with Nashville Public Television, the Nashville Healthcare Council, the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, launched a seven-part documentary series (NPT Reports: Children’s Health Crisis) to explore the challenges children in Tennessee face in order to lead healthy lives. Our statistics are alarming - here is just a small sampling:

  • TN ranks 41st in overall child well-being.
  • 41% of Tennessee children are overweight or at risk for being overweight.
  • Tennessee has the 4th highest infant mortality rate in the United States.

The series Emmy Award-winning documentary series will run over three years and continues to focus on key issues ranging from high infant mortality rates to obesity to mental health issues. Bottom line, we hope that this documentary spurs community-wide interest and conversations that will lead to solutions.

Beth Curley, president and chief executive officer of NPT, puts it best when she stated “It's not a child's fault if she or he is overweight, or in poor general health as a result of improper nutrition, lack of inoculations or inadequate exercise. The situation has become too dire to lay blame, though, and we feel this documentary series is the best way to reach the community-at-large. This isn’t only a problem for parents, teachers, caregivers or the medical community. It’s everyone’s concern. The ramifications for not addressing this crisis now will be significant.”

The next episode, which addresses mental health issues, airs this coming Wednesday, June 29 at 8pm. For those of you in Nashville or the surrounding area, that’s on channel 8. Please tune-in and learn more about the crisis we face. For those of you outside the viewing area or unable to watch tonight, this documentary will be made available online. The future of our beloved community depends on us collaborating and finding the right solutions to offset this epidemic.

Thank you for listening, tuning-in and caring enough to do something about the crises we face. Oh, and thank you for being a part of my first blogging experience. I could get used to this.

Want to learn more or watch other reports from the series? Simply click here for more information on NPT Reports: Children’s Health Crisis.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UQ_TVyWdVw

Topics: Mental Health In the News Emmy Award-Winning NPT Reports Children's Health Prevention Events Healthways Foundation