The Well-Being Journal

Alabama's Anniston Star Gets It

Sandy Cummings

This week, Gallup and Healthways released our analysis of the state of well-being for communities, states and congressional districts in the United States. We've been conducting this research and analysis for six years now, and it always yields interesting tidbits -- for example, Boulder has the nation’s lowest obesity rate at 12.4%, making it the only community in the United States (covered by the report) that meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s stated goal of 15% obesity rate or lower.

The analysis generates some media attention each year. After all, we care about where we live, and we want to know how our states and communities fare in the rankings. Does the research echo what we believe to be true about our homes and our experiences?

We were excited to see the news covered this year by USA Today, The Huffington Post, the Boston Globe and many other media outlets -- even Diane Sawyer gave us a shout-out on "ABC World News Tonight." That's heady stuff.

But the editorial board at Alabama's relatively small Anniston Star really captured the reason that we collaborate on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index in the first place. Take a look. It's a quick read, but an important one, because Alabama ranked 47th this year, ahead of only three states — Mississippi, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Well-being isn't the same as being happy, nor is it synonymous with good physical health or wealth. Tom Rath, who literally wrote the book on well-being, describes it as "the interaction between physical health, finding your daily work and interactions fulfilling, having strong social relationships and access to the resources you need, feeling financially secure, and being part of a true community."

In short, in areas where well-being is high, people have a greater tendency to be leading their best lives. And that, in turn, impacts business performance, healthcare costs and many other factors that are vital to helping communities thrive and grow.

Understanding where a population -- a state, a community, a company -- stands when it comes to well-being is the first step toward setting successful strategies for improvement. Because well-being can be improved -- it just takes leadership.

As the editorial board of the Anniston Star put it:

Not everyone in Alabama is obese. Not everyone has habits harmful to his or her health. Not everyone has trouble finding decent housing or healthy food. Not everyone has a fatalistic outlook on life. Yet, we all must work together.

Alabama is an example of what happens in the absence of leadership. Too many of its residents are denied an opportunity at the American Dream.

Past performance doesn't lock us into this prison forever. Everyone has a stake in seeing these conditions improve. Our prosperity as a state depends on it.

Topics: Well-Being Links of the Week Basic Access In the News Healthcare Community Well-Being Index Gallup Leadership

Is Improving Your Financial Well-Being on Your List of New Year's Resolutions?

Sandy Cummings

blog SAD JAN 2012Sometimes you read something and think, "Yep, that about says it." Check out this article from TheStreet -- not a place where you'll usually catch me hanging out for a good read, but the title, "2014: The Year of Change," drew me in. Here's a little sample to pique your interest:

I don't know what it is, but something about the new year makes us want to reflect on our own imperfections. It makes us think. It forces us face to face with our regrets. It also makes us consider what we can do to make this year better than the last.

"We as humans love fresh beginnings and we get a new chance every January 1st," says Shannon Ryan, a certified financial planner who has worked with individuals and businesses for the last 20 years.

And there's nothing wrong with new year's resolutions, right? In theory, choosing to make one positive change each year could only be a good thing. Think about it. This year could be the year you start exercising. Next year you could focus on nutrition. The year after that could be the year when you finally stop overspending, once and for all.

Then, boom, you've evolved from an exercise-hating spendthrift to a CrossFit enthusiast who saves 90 percent of their income. And you did it all over the span of just a few years, right?

Wrong.

...

In order to move beyond resolutions, you have to make a lifestyle change. And that's exactly why people compare their financial challenges with their relationship with food. The similarities are striking. After all, it's easy to start a new diet on a Monday (don't all diets start on Monday?) and do awesome until about Thursday night when your husband breaks out a giant block of cheese at 10:00 p.m. (story of my life). Then, all of a sudden it's Friday and you're scarfing down nachos at Applebee's while secretly hating yourself. Oh, but you're totally going to restart the whole thing on Monday, right?

The article goes on to share Ryan's tips for getting your financial house in order, which I'm guessing is on the resolutions list for many of us.

Why is it so hard to make lifestyle changes that ultimately improve our overall well-being? Sometimes we just need a little help making the small steps that lead to big change. Healthways is working with the Dave Ramsey organization to make achieving financial well-being a little easier for everyone. It doesn't have to start on January 1 -- you can start any time. Stay tuned -- we'll be sharing more in the coming months.

 

Topics: Healthy Living Financial Well-Being Well-Being Links of the Week In the News Lifestyle Change New Years Resolution

It's That Time of Year: 2013's Top 10 U.S. Well-Being Insights

Sandy Cummings

Gallup editors took a look back at the year in Americans' health and well-being, drawing on data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. See their picks for the top 10 most important findings here.

If you've been indulging in a few too many holiday treats, don't forget the exercise, as finding number 10 points out that it's lack of exercise that's most linked to obesity.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index provides an in-depth, real-time view of Americans' well-being, giving governments, communities, employers and health plans unmatched insight into the health of their populations. The Well-Being Index includes topics such as life evaluation, physical and emotional health, health behaviors, work environment, and basic access.

Topics: Healthy Living Links of the Week In the News Exercise Well-Being Index

What You Need to Know About Trans Fats

James Kanka

Dr. Dean Ornish succinctly sums it up in a quote printed in both the Wall Street Journal and USA Today:

"Trans fats increase the shelf life of foods but decrease the shelf life of humans."

Last Thursday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled that trans fats are unsafe in food. Trans fats, originally engineered as a "healthier alternative" to saturated fats, by using oils, have since been universally acknowledged as bad for you — contributing to as many as 20,000 heart attacks a year.

The FDA has yet to issue a ban on trans fats in foods, but restaurants and food companies have already begun reworking their recipes. Dr. Dean Ornish advised McDonald's and PepsiCo on removing trans fats from their foods years ago.

So, while trans fats may already be disappearing from the food you eat, this ruling shines a spotlight on the importance of eating right. Mothers everywhere have been telling their children to do so since the dawn of time, but now organizations are doing the same, and new research is backing them up. In a recent Healthways study, employees who ate healthy all day were 25% more likely to report higher job performance and were absent less.

When companies invest in the health and well-being of their employees, it's a win-win situation. Just another reason we are excited at Healthways to make Dr. Dean Ornish's 30-plus years of diet expertise and lifestyle change accessible to millions.

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Topics: In the News Workplace Well-Being Business Performance Health Prevention Trans Fats Productivity Government FDA Diet Ornish Lifestyle Medicine