June 24, 2014

More Engagement with Weight Loss Program Fosters Success, New Study Shows

Studies of weight loss programs in a clinical setting benefit from a tidy combination of elements, such as carefully controlled environments, rigorous processes and structured selection criteria for participants. That’s why it’s so important to examine any program in a real-world setting as well a clinical one – you need to make sure it’s going to work when you can’t quite plan for everything.

The creators of the Innergy™ program, Johns Hopkins Medicine and Healthways, knew that they needed to do just that. A sustained weight loss program, Innergy was borne out of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) sponsored clinical Practice-based Opportunities for Weight Reduction (POWER) trial. The two organizations wanted to advance the science of the successful POWER trial and gauge the weight loss program’s real-world efficacy.

A new study, “Initial Evaluation of a Scalable Lifestyle Program for Sustained Weight Loss,” published in the online Journal of Obesity and Weight Loss Therapy, demonstrates Innergy’s effectiveness in a non-clinical setting. Specifically, the study shows that, in the real-world environment of a mid-sized employer, Innergy can result in statistically significant weight loss. Program participants lost an average of 6.8 pounds per person over the six-month period of the study. Even better, nearly a quarter of the 265 participants lost 5 percent or more of their starting weight.

Perhaps unsurprisingly but definitively, the study also found that weight loss increased in proportion to how much participants engaged with the program. Researchers measured level of engagement by both how long participants remained engaged and how frequently they interacted with the program:

  • Participants still active with the program in the sixth month of the study had an average weight loss of 11.5 pounds and 5 percent of their starting weight.
  • Participants who took advantage of a broader range of program support elements – had more coaching calls, regularly used the website, and tracked their weight and exercise – were much more successful in shedding pounds. In fact, participants who interacted more than the study median with all five program support components lost an average of 5.7 percent of their starting weight.

The study also provided Innergy’s creators with valuable insight into how to make the weight loss program even better. Because the study demonstrated the critical importance of member commitment to weight loss, program designers updated and strengthened enrollment criteria to better assess a member’s readiness to change. Research data also revealed the essential role that re-engagement methods play following a period of inactivity, re-engagement tactics were both updated and added.

Innergy is a 24-month program, consisting of a six-month weight loss period and an 18-month maintenance period. The authors will continue to monitor the study population through the maintenance period.

One of the motives for developing Innergy was to help combat the epidemic of obesity. To learn more about this issue, download a copy of Healthways’ Well-Being Insights article, “Addressing America’s Obesity Epidemic: Practical, Flexible Weight Management Capabilities for a Spectrum of Needs.”


Written by: Madison Agee

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

June 20, 2014

“Population Well-Being” Capabilities Come to Independent Physicians in North Texas

gty_dallas_kb_140321_16x9_992Imagine, for a minute, what it must be like to be a physician. You spent all those hard years in school because you wanted to help people live long, healthy, productive lives. And then you start practicing medicine, and probably fairly quickly come to realize that there is only so much you can do to fulfill your mission because you can’t sustainably influence what is often the underlying cause of illness: lives lived short of their potential.

Physicians see the impacts of stress, loneliness and isolation. They understand that their patients don’t need another lecture on losing weight or stopping smoking because they already know these things are bad for their health. They’re well aware that once their patients leave their office, their attempts to change their lifestyles to improve their physical well-being will often fall short. Pressures at work, financial worries, lack of support and encouragement, and so many other concerns create barriers to change that physicians typically are powerless to address, particularly across their entire patient population.

Healthways has teamed up with the largest independent physicians association in North Texas, Genesis Physicians Group (GPG), to directly address this issue. You can read about it in HealthLeaders, or read our press release here. We just wanted to take a minute to share how excited we are about our new joint venture, GenHealth.

Ben R. Leedle, Jr., Healthways’ president and chief executive officer, summed up the news:

“Not only are physicians the most trusted, credible influencers of individual health behaviors, but an individual’s bond with his or her physician is one of the most enduring. As healthcare continues to transform in response to untenable healthcare costs, poor overall health, and weaker competitive positions for American companies and communities, innovative healthcare providers such as GPG are assuming more financial and quality outcomes risk for their patient populations. In so doing, they are embracing a scientifically proven approach that has well-being – not sick care – at its core. We firmly believe that by directly supporting the patient-physician relationship with well-being improvement solutions, we will create faster, more sustained engagement in order to proactively reduce the causes and effects of disease and achieve significantly greater impacts on medical savings, productivity and performance.”

 


Written by: Sandy Cummings

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June 17, 2014

Bringing the Promise of Well-Being to New Markets

Once upon a time, if you thought about a person pursuing “well-being,” that may have generated a certain image in your mind: someone who has lots of disposable income, shops at Whole Foods, lives in a suburban community conducive to outdoor exercise, attends exclusive yoga classes in expensive workout wear, is likely under the age of 50 … and so on. Insight from the recent Healthways 2014 Well-Being Summit indicates that this image is rapidly changing.

At the Summit, the founders of Feel Rich, Quincy Jones III and Shawn Ullman, discussed their company’s mission to bring the message of better well-being to minority and urban communities. These markets have historically been underserved with authentic, connected messaging that educates and excites them about taking steps to improve their well-being.

To achieve their mission, the two entrepreneurs utilize engaging multimedia content delivered by hip-hop artists who are considered trustworthy messengers of change. These artists – many of whom are committed to healthy lifestyles (did you know the rapper Common is a vegan fitness enthusiast?) – promote better well-being to the African-American and Latino markets through relatable imagery and authentic language.

Jones and Ullman’s approach also allows well-being brands that are looking to gain entrance into or further penetrate these markets to connect to their target consumers in a more genuine way. For example, they spearheaded the Johnson & Johnson “Text4Baby” campaign, which provided expecting and new mothers with health advice and information for both themselves and their babies. The mothers were inspired to receive the texts with a promise of a personal lullaby for their new baby sung by actor-model-musical artist Tyrese.

Older adults, too, are tuning in to well-being in growing numbers. Joseph Coughlin of the MIT AgeLab provided the Well-Being Summit audience with an interesting overview of some of the demographics and trends of this expanding population. Generally speaking, this market:

  • Considers itself ill, but not sick — e.g., “I may have high blood pressure, but I’m doing just fine”
  • Has at least some college education
  • Values having health and ability and freedom to still live active lives
  • Is skeptical of information, preferring testimonials and advice from others like them
  • Is committed to working or required to work as long as they can — 40 percent plan to “work until they drop”
  • Is overloaded by information, which is often contradictory
  • Is relatively isolated — 30 percent of people 60+ live alone, and 70 percent of 50+ live in rural areas

Coughlin pointed out that traditional methods of delivering a well-being message to seniors, which are predicated on facts, fear and a prescriptive “this is what’s good for you” approach, don’t work. Instead, organizations and brands trying to reach this demographic should use a more fun, social-oriented framework that:

  •  Leverages social networks
  • Speaks in terms of solutions, not just data
  • Encourages life performance instead of illness management
  • Is personal and authentic
  • Is constructed to enable a longer life span versus getting a senior through this life stage

Connecting with these two “non-traditional” markets for well-being products and services – urban/minority and seniors – requires that brands take a new approach. In both instances, authenticity and social engagement are critically important.


Written by: Madison Agee

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June 10, 2014

Should You Be Emphasizing “Feminine” Values at Your Organization?

According to New York Times best-selling author and corporate consultant John Gerzema, the values that we traditionally associate with femininity – such as nurture, empathy, collaboration and flexibility – are the “operating system of the 21st century.” As he recently discussed at Healthways’ 2014 Well-Being Summit, where he connected well-being to leadership and consumer trends, most people already think these feminine values are of great importance, a trend that will only continue to grow in the future.

In the book, The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, which Gerzema co-authored by Michael D’Antonio, the authors explore this idea in detail. Their research, which took into account surveys of 64,000 people in 13 countries around the world, reveals some interesting insight into what people believe to be important and the values and approaches they feel will benefit themselves, their families, communities and workplaces, and the greater good.

Results from the surveys indicate that two-thirds of people think the world would be a better place if men thought like women. More than half (57 percent) are also frustrated with the conduct of men. The authors then split their original survey group of 64,000 into two halves and asked the first half to classify 125 human traits (e.g., “confident,” “visionary,” “adaptive”) according to whether the traits were masculine, feminine or neither. They then asked the other half to rank the same 125 traits (which were not given any gender association) based on how those traits relate to leadership, success, morality and happiness.

Conclusions from their research led the authors to assert that people all over the world are looking for more “feminine” leaders – leaders whose power stems more from gentle influence and persuasion than autocratic control. Gerzema and D’Antonio also concluded that feminine values are on the rise, and that people now prefer these values to those historically associated with masculinity.

Gerzema provided Summit attendees with both the results of their research and examples of how this rise of feminine values is being played out in far-flung corners of the world. He discussed how businesses and organizations all over the world are rejecting traditional models associated with masculinity and instead emphasizing these more feminine approaches to leadership, work and productivity – and achieving incredible success from doing so.

Traits such as empathy, collaboration, inclusion and humility are helping organizations achieve their business goals. As surprising evidence of this shift in thinking, Gerzema shared that 67 percent of survey participants indicated that they would work for less money at a company in which they truly believed, upturning the classic model that people are primarily motivated by money. Clearly, liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals — in other words, having a sense of purpose — is a significant contributor to well-being. To learn more about the importance of well-being, download the Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being Report.


Written by: Madison Agee

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June 04, 2014

Well-Being as Brand: 10 Examples

Well-being is everywhere these days – people are talking, reading and thinking about it. And companies are paying attention, looking to leverage this ever-growing movement to attract new customers, grow their businesses and position themselves for future opportunity. Jennifer Pfahler, an expert in the consumer health, wellness and lifestyle market, says that well-being is now well-entrenched within the DNA of many consumer brands.

Pfahler’s recent presentation at the Healthways 2014 Well-Being Summit provided attendees with an overview of this phenomenon, including a discussion of “why well-being?” and “what’s it worth?”. To demonstrate the scope of this ever-growing trend, she offered several examples of consumer-oriented brands that are adopting well-being as part of their marketing and product strategy.

  1. Activia. Activia is marketed not only as a delicious yogurt, but one with probiotics that promote and support digestive health.
  2. bedMATCH. Spending on sleep-related products continues to grow, and bedMATCH is taking advantage of the opportunity by offering a scientifically based system for helping consumers find the right mattress for their specific needs.
  3. EVEN Hotels. IHG is launching this new brand designed to attract travelers interested in health and wellness, with features such as in-room workout options and healthy food and beverage choices.
  4. fitmob. This company uses social networking to connect individuals within a community to one another and group exercise opportunities led by a professional fitness trainer – all enhanced by a pricing structure that rewards additional workouts.
  5. iCouch. Leveraging the power of online video, iCouch allows mental health professionals to provide counseling and therapy services to individuals from the comfort of their homes.
  6. Dove. Dove’s recent marketing campaigns have centered on “Real Beauty,” encouraging self-acceptance and self-love among women of all ages, shapes, sizes and races.
  7. Oral-B. This established oral care brand has started to utilize the language of well-being to demonstrate the importance of oral health and its link to a broad range of other aspects of total well-being.
  8. CVS. This leading drugstore recently made the newsworthy decision to no longer stock or sell tobacco products in its retail outlets, despite a projected revenue loss of $2 billion per year.
  9. Kind. The brand not only uses health-conscious ingredients in its snacks, but encourages people to perform random acts of kindness and generosity – “Do the Kind Thing.”
  10. Suja. The line of cold-pressed juices is marketed as helping people “live a long, beautiful life.”

You’ve probably seen many of other examples of companies leveraging the concept and language of well-being to evolve their brands and attract consumers who are interested in a happier, more health-conscious lifestyle. According to Pfahler, doing so helps them achieve the “three Ps”:

  1. Improve their positioning, with well-being as a market differentiator
  2. Increase profits and drive commercial success
  3. Have a purpose

Pfahler believes that more B2C companies will join the well-being movement, and this will likely drive brands in the B2B space to consider a similar approach.


Written by: Madison Agee

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

May 23, 2014

E-Cigarettes: The Next Best Thing in Smoke-Free Environments?

By Ann Wendling, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Tobacco Cessation, Healthways

In just a few years, e-cigarettes have advanced from difficult-to-find novelty to readily available commodity widely marketed as a healthier alternative to cigarettes. But with research and regulatory action struggling to keep pace, what do we really know about e-cigarettes?

Food for thought

E-cigarettes, whether manufactured in China or the United States, are not subject to production and content regulation, leading to a multitude of products with inconsistent nicotine delivery and complicating any research on safety and effectiveness.

Usage is increasing dramatically among both youth and adults – about 7% for both in 2012. Alarmingly, a Legacy for Health February 2014 survey found current e-cigarette use at 9% for ages 13-17 and 29% for ages 18-21. Dual use with conventional cigarettes predominates.

Limited population studies and clinical trails have not shown quit efficacy or effectiveness. However, recent data from a survey of almost 6,000 recently quit smokers in England, published on May 21, suggested a promising real-world effectiveness of 1.6 times for e-cigarettes compared to over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and 1.4 times compared to unaided cessation.

Safety studies have had variable results:

  • We know ultrafine particles, dependent on the presence of nicotine, are small enough to reach deep into the lungs and subsequently the systemic circulation.
  • Cytotoxicity is variable among products and can be related to the concentration and number of flavorings.
  • Exposure to e-cigarette aerosol, often containing glycerin or propylene glycol, can cause throat and mouth irritation, cough, nausea, vomiting and increased airway resistance. No long-term safety data have yet been collected.
  • Secondhand exposure to nicotine as well as other toxins in the vapor has been detected in several studies, albeit usually at lower concentrations than secondhand smoke.

The public health effect

If indeed smoking cessation were as simple as switching from conventional cigarettes to e-cigarettes, undoubtedly there would be significant benefit to the public’s health. But it is not this simple.

Up to a third of youth have only used e-cigarettes. Will this set them on a trajectory toward a lifelong addiction to nicotine and eventually conventional cigarettes?

In addition, most adults are dual users – are they using e-cigarettes to vape in smoke-free environments or to cut down on more costly conventional cigarettes, believing they are at less risk for smoking-related disease? Data do not necessarily support the latter premise. If e-cigarettes delay total abstinence, the health burden may actually increase.

Until clean indoor air policies universally include bans on e-cigarette use (only three states have them to date), there is increasing risk for social acceptance/normalization of smoking/vaping behavior. Fortunately, more states are on board with limiting sales to minors.

What’s on the horizon?

If we follow the same course as the past couple years, we can expect continuing exponential growth in e-cigarette consumption. Fortunately, on April 24, 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took the first step toward regulation by proposing a Deeming Regulation to assert jurisdiction over other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Unfortunately, the regulation does not include limits on marketing/advertising and flavor additives attractive to youth and will take up to several years for some of the regulations to take effect.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, according to recently released guidance, requires most health plans to cover FDA-approved smoking cessation products and counseling without any out-of-pocket cost to consumers. E-cigarettes, not proven or approved as cessation tools, will not be covered. This may not be a significant barrier to the escalating use unless more states tax e-cigarettes at a level comparable to conventional cigarettes.

Many questions remain unanswered. How will e-cigarettes be viewed by health plans and employers? Will vapers be considered tobacco users and pay higher healthcare premiums?

The next several years will yield much needed data on the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes while we observe a natural experiment of “free-range” marketing, easy access and escalating use and wait for guidance and regulation. Until then, the evidence supports a combination of behavioral therapy and FDA-approved cessation aides to assist tobacco users in quitting.

References

Grana R, Benowitz N, and Glantz SA. “E-Cigarettes: A Scientific Review.” Circulation 129:1972-1986, 2014.

Brown J, Beard E, Kotz D, Michie S and West R. “Real-world effectiveness of e-cigarettes when used to aid smoking cessation: A cross-sectional population study.” Addiction 109: doi: 10.1111/add.12623, 2014.

Legacy for Health. “Vaporized: E-Cigarettes, Advertising, and Youth.” Report. May 2014.

Andrews M. “E-Cigarette Users May End Up Paying More For Insurance.” Kaiser Health News. May 20, 2014.


Written by: Sandy Cummings

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

May 19, 2014

Five Hits of Community Well-Being for June

The weather’s looking good, and it’s time to get out and enjoy it. Here’s a quick list of community events to help improve your well-being in June.

June 6 – National Yo-Yo Day 

National Yo-Yo Day is the perfect day to get out your yo-yo and have some fun playing “Sleeper,” “Walk the Dog” and “Shooting the Moon.” Believed to be invented in ancient Greece, the Yo-Yo became popular in America when Donald F. Duncan Sr. manufactured the “Duncan Yo-Yo” in the early 1900s. You can visit the National Yo-Yo Museum in Chico, California.

June 7 – National Trails Day

National Trails Day is a celebration of America’s magnificent trail system and features a series of outdoor activities designed to promote the importance of the 200,000 miles of trails in the United States. Trails provide access to the natural world for recreation, education, exploration, solitude and inspiration, and they give us a means to support good physical and mental health. Pick a trail and breathe fresh air, get your heart pumping, and escape from stress.

Individuals, clubs and organizations from around the country host a wide array of trail activities: hiking, biking, paddling, horseback riding, trail running, bird watching and more. Check out the website for an official event being held near you.

Heath Jones

Heath Jones, Healthways Coach-of-the-Year and member of the Innergy team at Healthways’ Seattle Well-Being Improvement Center, is “Stepping It Up” in June as he gets ready for a 40-mile hike in Yosemite over Fourth of July weekend. In preparation, Heath will be hiking by himself or with a group every week, mountain biking twice with his friend Nick, logging at least four miles on the step-mill at the gym each week, and continuing his regular strength training routine. That’s Heath training in the great outdoors of the Pacific Northwest! 

June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day

National Get Outdoors Day encourages healthy, active outdoor fun. Prime goals of the day are to reach first-time visitors to public lands and reconnect youth to the outdoors. Participating partners will offer opportunities for families to experience traditional and non-traditional types of outdoor activities.

June 19 – National Recess at Work Day

Rich DiGirolamo, founder of Recess at Work, believes that to keep people engaged, loyal and productive, you need to create a work environment that is fun. But having fun at work and being a fun place to work are two very different things. Recess at Work is an opportunity to create team spirit, engage employees, increase morale, improve health and wellness, and share your fun side with your colleagues.

June 28 – Great American Backyard Campout

The Great American Backyard Campout is a part of the National Wildlife Federation’s efforts to help inspire Americans to protect wildlife, including a three-year campaign to get 10 million kids to spend regular outdoor time in nature. Thousands of people across the nation will gather in their backyards, neighborhoods, communities and parks to take part in this annual event that provides a fun-filled evening for all generations to get outside and connect with nature.


Written by: Sandy Cummings

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May 15, 2014

Need to Kick It Up a Notch with Your Wellness Program?

Our friends over at Gallup have compiled some intriguing research, as always, about why corporate wellness programs often fall short of their goals — plus what employers can do to turn things around. Check out this infographic:

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Discouraging data, given that programs designed to improve employee well-being have been shown to lower healthcare costs and improve employee productivity.

What steps can employers take to improve participation? Gallup researchers highlight the key role of managers in building awareness and trust, encouraging their teams to take part, and creating accountability for results. They also point out that programs that take well-being improvement beyond just the physical element — in other words, that also work to elevate social, financial, community and purpose well-being — have greater impact: 

When comparing adults who are thriving in just Physical Well-Being with those thriving in all five elements, those in the latter group:

  • report 41% fewer unhealthy days
  • are more than twice as likely to say they always adapt well to change
  • are 36% more likely to say they always fully bounce back after an illness
  • are 23% more likely to donate money
  • are 43% more likely to have volunteered
  • are 65% less likely to be involved in a workplace accident
  • are 81% less likely to look for a new job when the job market improves

Read the full article here.


Written by: Sandy Cummings

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April 30, 2014

Dr. Dean Ornish on Sustaining Lifestyle Changes

Dr. Dean Ornish has been a part of the Healthways family for not quite a year now. As he travels the world, discussing both the impact of positive lifestyle changes and the best ways to go about about making sure those changes can be sustained, I’m often struck by how consistent and powerful his messages are.

For example, in this HuffPost video, where he says, “Fear, shame and guilt are not sustainable.”

Or in this Parade article, which leads off with his reassuring, “Your genes are not your fate.”

And then, when comparing lifestyle change to traditional medical approaches: “These simple lifestyle changes work even better at a fraction of the cost, and the only side effects are good ones,” which he shared recently in Everyday Health.

Dr. Ornish is at the forefront of a movement to change our nation’s emphasis on “sick care” — work so powerful, it’s becoming the cornerstone of healthcare reform initiatives, as this article in USA Today describes.

Whether you’re grappling with chronic disease or simply living a life that somehow feels like it’s missing the mark, having a clear path to well-being improvement makes a big difference. I hope you’ll spend a few minutes with Dr. Ornish via this coverage and start walking down that path.


Written by: Sandy Cummings

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March 27, 2014

Alabama’s Anniston Star Gets It

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.


Written by: Sandy Cummings

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