The Well-Being Journal

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.

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

Well-Being Defined

Jennifer Rudloff

When Gallup and Healthways made a pact to improve the health of the American people in late 2007, we knew we needed a broader definition of health. Our intuition told us there was more to impacting the lives of people than just badgering them into preventing disease. After all, the past collective efforts of the field had not produced stellar results. Think about the current statistics: 67% of adult Americans are overweight or obese; 60% don’t exercise; 82% report having at least moderate stress, 21% still smoke and 56% have at least one chronic illness. Albert Einstein was widely quoted as saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Unfortunately, it seems that in improving the health of Americans over the last 40 years we are all guilty of a little insanity. So, Healthways and Gallup wanted to think bigger and broader. But then came the dilemma. What was it we were trying to impact and measure? The answer – well-being.

In our view, well-being was broader and more encompassing than just health but a complete definition still proved illusive. Then, one of our board members took us back to 1946 and the preamble to the constitution of the World Health Organization. In this document we found the following statement:

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Knowing what I know now I might change it just slightly to say, “Well-being is a state of complete physical, mental, and social health and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Either way, you get the drift. This definition really helped us get our head around well-being. However, we still needed a little more meat on the bones. Working with Gallup we identified six domains of well-being which include the following:

  • Life Evaluation – on a scale of 1 – 10, how a person feels about their general life today and how they think they will feel in five years
  • Physical Health – the amount of acute and chronic illnesses people experience
  • Emotional health – how much people experience happiness, stress, anger, and even depression, among other emotions
  • Healthy Behavior – how often people exercise, eat properly, consume alcohol, smoke and observe other proper or improper health habits
  • Work Environment – how much support people receive at work and how they perceive they are treated
  • Basic Access – the access people have to basic necessities such as food and shelter, but also the access they have to elements of a supportive environment, such as a safe place to exercise or affordable fresh fruits and vegetables

This basic definition of well-being gave birth to the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index® (WBI). Since January 2008, the WBI surveys 1,000 adults nationwide each day (major holidays excluded) which takes over 26,000 calls per day to complete. We recently launched the WBI in the UK and Germany as well. In the US we now have over 1.5 million surveys completed which has continued to help us define well-being and understand what improving it means, both in terms of health impact and in terms of personal and business performance. While our definition will continue to be fine tuned, we already have some incredible insights that I will share with you through future blogs. For starters, take a look at the path analysis performed using WBI data and presented in the graphic below as an example:

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a concern to which we can all relate. Simple physics tells us that controlling BMI is strictly a matter of balancing calories consumed versus calories burned. But more recently we have accepted findings that stressors can cause other physiological changes in the body that make our systems more conducive to gaining weight. Fair enough. This still has an explanation rooted in physiology. Yet, as you can see from the graphic above, we have been able to correlate many other social and emotional factors to BMI. Is it likely for instance that the amount of recognition a person gets at work changes their physiology to the point that he or she gains or looses weight? Probably not! But does it have a correlation to BMI? According to this path analysis, unequivocally yes! So does this tell us we have a lot more to learn – absolutely! Does this show incredible promise in understanding how to improve the well-being of Americans including their physical health? Without a doubt!

Just by looking at BMI we can see the definition of well-being must be broad because its reach is extensive. The WBI continues to demonstrate that well-being is a state of complete physical, mental, and social health and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, and the inter-related nature of its domains are immense. I will provide much more on our findings and the topic of well-being in the months ahead. In the meantime, soak this in and give me your thoughts.

Does this resonate with you conceptually? Do you put credence in what the WBI is telling us thus far? Do you have any reason to think this is totally off base? Do you have some examples to share of well-being in action? We really want to know!

Topics: Well-Being Index Prevention

Men’s Health Month

Jennifer Rudloff

Men: June is all about us (ladies, you’ll have your turn). We take the time to celebrate our fathers, showering them with gifts of love and appreciation. And all month is devoted to our health. Men’s Health Month is celebrated each June in an effort to increase awareness of preventable diseases. Many chronic illnesses affect whole generations of men. Nearly 1 out of every 2 adults is impacted by at least one chronic disease, most of which are preventable. This is not only costly to each citizen and the US economy, but it also robs us of years of quality life. Education and awareness are the first steps towards action; and Men’s Health Month provides a nice opportunity to educate, reflect, and start down a path of prevention. But don’t be mislead! To actually prevent these illnesses men must take personal responsibility to make the necessary behavior changes.

It’s important to know what we’re up against. The findings in the table below from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® show the prevalence of some of the most common chronic diseases among men:

Chronic Disease Percentage of Adult Men
High Blood Pressure 30.4%
High Cholesterol 27.5%
Depression 12.5%
Asthma 9.2%
Diabetes 10.9%
Cancer 6.5%
Heart Attack 5.5%

One action every man can easily take is to get regular checkups from a medical professional. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that women are 100% more likely to visit the doctor for annual examinations and preventive services than men. Men’s Health Month implores all men to visit the doctor and seek medical advice and treatment. Men need to do this early and regularly to help combat the chronic diseases affecting our gender. The second step is to take some time to honestly assess your current behaviors. As a leader, it’s important that you lead by example. Start by asking yourself:

  • Do I smoke?
  • Do I exercise regularly?
  • What are my eating habits like? Am I eating enough fruits and vegetables?
  • Do I consume too much alcohol?
  • Do I drink enough water (8 cups of water a day is recommended)?

If you find yourself answering in the negative to any of these questions, it’s time to come up with a plan of action to make your life better. Smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet, and excessive consumption of alcohol are all directly related to the development of chronic diseases that affect men. Enlist the help of your loved ones – your parents, your partner, your children, your friends, and even your coworkers – to help keep you on track in taking the actions that will help you be more energetic today and healthier tomorrow. You are in charge of the direction of your life and Men’s Health Month is the perfect time to start making positive decisions that will redirect the course of your life.

Men’s Health Month has provided us with a great foundation from which we can begin to improve our well-being, adopt healthier habits throughout the year and encourage others to do the same. Here are few recommendations to help you and your people get started and stay on track:

  • Exercise is of key importance in the prevention of chronic diseases. Running or even walking is a great way to get active and stay active. Try organizing walking groups at lunch for your employees and track your progress with MeYou Health’s fun and interactive iPhone app, Monumental.
  • If you’re a smoker or have friends or co-workers who smoke, visit for support and tips on how to help kick your smoking habit.
  • Check out Munch-5-a-day or EveryDRINK from MeYou Health. Also, sign up for the MeYou Health Daily Challenge that will send you simple daily health challenges in many areas of well-being. Challenge your people to do the same. You might strike up a little healthy competition in the process.

So for all of our readers – I want to know, how are you going to lead by example? What action are you going to take to change your lifestyle so that you can live a long, happy and healthy life? Leave your comments below. In the meantime I am off to the mountain bike trails. Perhaps I will see your there!

Topics: Healthy Living Health Prevention MeYou Health Mens Health Wellness Well-Being Medical Costs & Utilization

National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy

Jennifer Rudloff

Today members of the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council, will release the National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy. This marks the beginning of America’s movement away from a healthcare system that focuses on the sick and chronically diseased, in favor of a system that will put emphasis on prevention and wellness and will help to increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life.

Today, 70% of chronic disease is preventable and nearly ½ of all adults have at least one chronic disease. states, “Focusing on preventing disease and illness before they occur will create healthier homes, workplaces, schools and communities so that people can live long and productive lives and reduce their healthcare costs.” Every American has a role in creating a healthier nation. Our communities, and economy will reap the rewards.

The National Prevention Strategy includes actions for the public and private sectors. The strategy outlines four strategic directions and they are as follows:

  • Build Healthy and Safe Community Environments: Prevention of disease starts in our communities and at home; not just in the doctor's office.
  • Expand Quality Preventive Services in Both Clinical and Community Settings: When people receive preventive care, such as immunizations and cancer screenings, they have better health and lower health care costs.
  • Empower People to Make Healthy Choices: When people have access to actionable and easy-to-understand information and resources, they are empowered to make healthier choices.
  • Eliminate Health Disparities: By eliminating disparities in achieving and maintaining health, we can help improve quality of life for all Americans.

So what? This is an important step for our nation. For the first time, we are seeing a visible commitment to health and well-being and a national strategy to that includes both the public and the private sectors working together to create positive change. Also, the government has a collaborative strategy in which 17 federal agencies will work together! This will help to assure cost savings and quality improvement for our citizens.

To read more about the announcement, visit:

Topics: Healthy Living Well-Being In the News Healthcare Community Prevention National Prevention Health Promotion National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy Public Health Council Preventative Services Government Health Conditions Health Promotion