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

Why We Built Innergy

Jennifer Rudloff

Obesity is America’s #1 health risk today.

Over the past 25 years, the prevalence of obesity grew from less than 15% of the population to 1 in 3, as this chart demonstrates.

That kind of growth is an epidemic in the making. It threatens to become the new normal, but the new normal carries with it $150 billion in annual costs.

Further, addressing obesity can positively impact other serious health risks increased by excess weight, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and musculo-skeletal disorders.

There is hope! Click here to read more about what we are doing to put a dent in the problem.

Topics: Obesity Weight Loss Innergy Prevention

The Inner Truth about Weight Loss

Jennifer Rudloff

After a diet, between one-third and two-thirds of all dieters not only gain all their weight back, they actually gain more than they originally lost. That was the finding of a 2007 UCLA paper that sought to understand the outcomes of calorie restricting diets. It’s a sad story – the dieters have good intentions and impose discomfort upon themselves all in the name of making change happen; yet in the end they wind up disappointed and frustrated. That sure doesn’t do a lot to reinforce behavior change.

Unfortunately, many of these people will also go on to suffer significant health problems, all avoidable, because of excess weight. Most people simply do not succeed when undertaking a diet. They start fresh and enthusiastically, stutter along the way, and abandon the effort. Everybody knows that it is unhealthy to be overweight, and the key to success is strikingly easy to understand:

  • Eat less.
  • Move more.

So why has the prevalence of obesity grown so much over the past 25 years? It now afflicts 1 out of every 3 Americans. How can we stop it?

In reality, losing weight and keeping it off requires a complete lifestyle change - an approach that goes beyond a focus on calories consumed and calories burned. It requires an assessment of life values, clarification of goals, and support that creates a sense of accountability, in addition to eating less and moving more.

Losing weight shouldn’t be about ordering packaged food and counting every step and calorie – it’s bigger than that.

In recognition of the true drivers to weight loss – for example, the fundamental motivation and need for accountability – Healthways built its weight management program to emphasize how to make success a more likely outcome. And we’ve named it in accordance with that philosophy. Innergy™ acknowledges the inner strength and motivation, the inner confidence that dominates the success or failure at losing weight. If you’d like to learn more about this program, click here.

Topics: Healthy Living Obesity Weight Loss Innergy Prevention Healthways Johns Hopkins

Is Your Boss Making You Fat?

Jennifer Rudloff

Are you overweight or obese? How about the person sitting next to you? What about the other side? Chances are your answer to two out of three of these questions is “yes.” The reason is, two out of three (67%) Americans are overweight or obese. I don’t know how that makes you feel but it makes me disappointed for two reasons. 1.) I am a 35 year veteran of health promotion; some days stats like this make me feel like the cancer researcher who studied the disease for 35 years and retired never finding a cure. 2.) It’s something within people’s control, yet, we’ve failed to motivate individuals to control it. To me that’s a sad commentary on America, a country that made itself great by our work ethic, motivation, and fortitude.

Add obesity to chronic illness (many of the same behaviors that cause obesity also cause chronic illness) and things get worse for corporate America. 86% of America’s full-time workforce is overweight or has a chronic health condition. This causes an estimated 450 million lost work days each year resulting in a cost of more than $153 billion annually in lost productivity, according to findings released yesterday and included in EBN . To contrast, this is four times higher than our friends across the pond in the UK. If you include part time workers and other measures of presenteeism, the picture gets much worse. "Other research that has examined a broader array of factors using a somewhat different list of chronic conditions places the economic effect of lost productivity at $1.1 trillion per year," the study said.

It’s interesting to look at the evolution of knowledge over the years: In graduate school I was taught that weight was all about metabolism; balance the calories taken in with the calories burned and the problem of maintaining a healthy weight is solved. Later I learned it wasn’t that easy. Things like stress cause hormonal changes that influence our propensity to gain weight. OK, that made sense. However, recent findings from the Well-Being Index and Well-Being Assessment are a little more intriguing. We can show that the financial resources a person has available or the amount of recognition you get at work have as high a correlation to Body Mass Index, as does your eating and physical activity behaviors. So, perhaps a bad boss can make you fat, even if indirectly.

While we don’t yet understand exactly how this works, it it seems to go something like this. People who have emotional or social burdens, such as a frustrating work environment, lack of time to spend with their friends, care-giving responsibilities for a close relative, financial problems, or marital strife simply have less time, energy, interest, and propensity to follow the behaviors that result in a healthy weight. So, a less than supportive boss may not make you fat directly, but it is a factor in an employee’s ability, or lack of ability, to take good care of him or herself. So, an organization with a lot of bad bosses can experience significant negative impact from having an overweight or obese population that manifests itself in poor physical health, as well as the poor business performance of the organization.

We have implemented a number of strategies with our own people that appear to be producing results. Things like providing our colleagues the option of walking workstations, and having healthy food options in our cafe (and no fryers). We have workout Wednesdays where people can dress for fitness all day, and attend one of our many fitness classes at work. While some of these ideas may not be practical in your company, many things are. Humans make thousands of mini-decisions all day and helping people be mindful of how to make the healthy choice the easy choice can pay big dividends. For instance, if you can help your people be mindful of making the high calorie burn choice their action of choice, sustainable weight loss can be achieved. Using the stairs rather than the elevators and escalators 10 times a day burns 60 more calories. 60 more calories burned for every workday, minus vacation time, results in about 5 pounds of weight loss per year. To make it even easier for people, dress up the stairwells. Hang paintings, play music, and paint the walls bright colors – use your creativity.

Obesity is a huge issue in the US and I don’t want to trivialize what it takes to improve it. However, it isn’t rocket science either. Do you have a creative idea? If so, share it with us.

Topics: Healthy Living Obesity Weight Loss Workplace Well-Being Business Performance Health Promotion Prevention Chronic Disease Boss Making you fat? Overweight Lost Productivity