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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March 25, 2014

Provo-Orem, Utah, Leads U.S. Communities in Well-Being

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., tops large communities
by Dan Witters, Gallup

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Provo-Orem, Utah, has the highest Well-Being Index score (71.4) in the U.S. across 189 communities Gallup and Healthways surveyed in 2012-2013. Also in the top 10 are Boulder, Colo.; Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo.; Honolulu, Hawaii; and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

Top 10 Communities Overall Well-Being

At 59.5, Huntington-Ashland, W.Va.-Ky.-Ohio, is the only community with a Well-Being Index score below 60. Huntington-Ashland also trailed all other metros in 2008, 2010, and 2011; its score of 58.1 in 2010 remains the lowest on record across five reporting periods spanning six years of data collection.

Charleston, W.Va., has the second-lowest score of 60.0. Redding, Calif.; Spartanburg, S.C.; Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas; and Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, N.C.; round out the bottom six — with the last three communities tied with a score of 62.2. None of these metro areas are strangers to the bottom 10 list, with each community having appeared at least once on the list in a prior reporting period.

Bottom 11 Communities Overall Well-Being

The regional breakdown in well-being scores is largely consistent with Gallup and Healthways state-level results, which find well-being generally higher in the Midwest and West, and lower in the South. West Virginia, which is home to at least a portion of the two lowest-rated metro areas (Huntington-Ashland and Charleston), ranked last in the nation for well-being among states for the fifth consecutive year in 2013. The state of California ranked 17th in overall well-being in 2013, but nevertheless boasts three metros in the top 10 for 2012-2013.

The Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) described in this article are defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. In many cases, more than one city is included in the same MSA, and the same MSA can cross state borders (such as Huntington-Ashland). All reported MSAs encompass at least 300 completed surveys in 2012-2013, and Gallup has weighted each of these samples to ensure it is demographically representative of that MSA.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index score is an average of six sub-indexes, which individually examine life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and access to basic necessities. The overall score and each of the six sub-index scores are calculated on a scale from 0 to 100, where a score of 100 represents the ideal. Gallup and Healthways have been tracking these measures daily since January 2008.

Ann Arbor Still No. 1 in Life Evaluation; Honolulu Best Off Emotionally

Although Provo-Orem has the highest overall well-being score, it does not lead in any of the six domains of well-being that we measured in 2012 and 2013. Residents of Ann Arbor, Mich., rated their current and future lives the best, for the second year in a row, and those of Huntington-Ashland rated theirs the worst.

Holland-Grand Haven, Mich., is the metro area with the highest Physical Health Index in the nation, displacing Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo., the community that held the spot in 2011. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif., has the highest Work Environment Index score. Holland-Grand Haven, Mich., led the nation in access to basic necessities as it did in 2008-2010 (Gallup and Healthways did not conduct enough surveys in Holland-Grand Haven to report on it in 2011).

Best and Worst Scoring Communities, Sub-Indexes

Compare well-being across large, medium, and small metro areas.

Residents of Huntington-Ashland rated their lives about half as well as those in Ann Arbor, and also described their physical health at levels far below what is found among residents of Holland-Grand Haven. Including its nation-leading score of 89.7 in the Basic Access Index, Holland-Grand Haven is the only community to boast a top ranking in more than one sub-index, although lower ratings in Life Evaluation and Work Environment kept it out of the top 10 overall.

Huntington-Ashland had the worst Emotional Health Index score, the third sub-index on which it ranks last nationally. Honolulu has been the top-rated U.S. metro area in the Emotional Health Index each measurement period since 2010 and has never ranked lower than second on this domain.

Healthy behaviors were least prevalent in Charleston and most prevalent in Salinas, Calif. Salinas reclaimed the top spot it occupied in 2010 after dropping to second place in 2011.

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas, residents reported the worst access to basic necessities for the fourth measurement period in a row, due in part to just 47% of residents who reported having health insurance, by far the lowest percentage in the nation. The metro area in the U.S. with the lowest score on the Basic Access Index has come from the state of Texas across all five reporting periods.

San Jose and San Francisco Top All Large Communities in Well-Being

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara residents reported the highest well-being among the nation’s 52 largest (1 million or more residents) communities, followed by San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif., and Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria, Va.-Md.-W.Va. These three metros are commonly among the top of the list of large cities each year. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara’s overall rank of fifth across well-being areas of all sizes is the highest ever for a large metro area. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wis., also typically ranks in the top five, while Denver-Aurora, Colo., makes its first appearance on the list this year.

Louisville-Jefferson County, Ky.-Ind., which was ranked 50th among large metros in 2011, took over the bottom spot, displacing Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev., for the large metro area with the lowest well-being, due mostly to its residents’ low physical, emotional, and healthy behaviors scores. Jacksonville, Fla., repeated its ranking of 51stfrom 2011.

Las Vegas-Paradise residents again reported the worst access to clean and safe water in the U.S. among large communities — a recurring pattern for this metro area and a principle reason why it is ranked last nationally in basic access for the fifth-straight reporting period among large communities. In general, the six-point gap in well-being between the highest and lowest-rated large communities is half as large as the 11-point gap found between the highest and lowest scores amid all 189 reportable communities that Gallup and Healthways surveyed.

Top Five and Bottom Five Large Communities, Overall Well-Being

Implications

With about 80% of Americans living in urban or suburban areas, the role of cities in spearheading the well-being of the U.S. is significant. City leadership — be it government, business, faith-based, community-based, or education — plays a critical role in the success or failure of a city to embrace and sustain a culture of well-being.

“There are tangible policies that communities can adopt to actively cultivate and improve residents’ well-being,” said Dan Buettner, National Geographic Fellow and founder of Blue Zones LLC. “Policies that nudge people into healthy activities — where it is easy to walk to the store, bike to a friend’s house, get access to fresh produce, and be surrounded by healthy-minded, supportive friends — are ones that make the healthy choice, the easy choice. Sustained transformation depends on building an environment and establishing social policies that support and reinforce these programs.”

Communities such as Boulder (highest average rank across all reporting periods since 2008), Provo-Orem (most religious city, which helps its overall well-being), and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (the highest-ever rating for a large metro) can serve as best-practice examples for leaders of other cities. Key elements of community well-being, such as learning new and interesting things, providing safe places to exercise, routine trips to the dentist, and smoking cessation, are all key vanguards of high well-being locations. Leaders can leverage these learnings and advocate their execution in their own communities.

View the full report on well-being in the U.S.

Explore and compare complete well-being data by metro area using Gallup’s U.S. Community Well-Being Tracking interactive.


Written by: James Kanka

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

February 20, 2014

North Dakota No. 1 in Well-Being, West Virginia Still Last

Well-being has steadily increased in 11 states since 2010
by Dan Witters, Gallup

North Dakota residents had the highest well-being in the nation in 2013, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. South Dakota trailed its northern neighbor in second place, with its highest score in six years of measurement. Hawaii held the top spot for the previous four years, but fell slightly last year. West Virginia and Kentucky had the two lowest well-being scores, for the fifth year in a row.

Well-Being: Top 10 States in 2013Well-Being: Bottom 10 States in 2013

North Dakota rejoined the top 10 well-being states in 2013 after being among that group from 2009 to 2011. South Dakota was among the top 10 in well-being for the first time since 2010, while Washington last appeared in 2008.

Explore complete state data >

These state-level data are based on more than 178,000 interviews with American adults across all 50 states, conducted from January-December 2013. Gallup and Healthways started tracking state-level well-being in 2008. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index score for the nation and for each state is an average of six sub-indexes, which individually examine life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and access to basic necessities.

The Well-Being Index is calculated on a scale of 0 to 100, where a score of 100 represents ideal well-being. Well-Being Index scores among states varied within a nine-point range in 2013. The Well-Being Index score for the nation in 2013 dipped to 66.2 from 66.7 in 2012, and matches the previous low, measured in 2011.

U.S. Well-Being Index, 2008-2013

Based on U.S. Census Bureau regions, Midwestern and Western states earned nine of the 10 highest well-being scores in 2013, while Southern states had eight of the 10 lowest well-being scores. The regional pattern of well-being is similar to previous years.

West Virginia at the Bottom on Five Out of Six Key Areas of Well-Being

In addition to North Dakota’s having the highest overall Well-Being Index score, it was the top state on two of the six well-being sub-indexes: Work Environment and Physical Health. At the opposite end of the spectrum was West Virginia, which ranked last on all sub-indexes except Work Environment.

Nebraska topped all other states on the Life Evaluation Index, with a score that was 17 points higher than West Virginia’s. Alaska boasted the highest Emotional Health Index score, while Vermont led all states in Healthy Behaviors for the second straight year. Massachusetts had the best score on the Basic Access Index for the fourth straight year, which is partially a result of having the highest percentage of residents with health insurancein the nation.

States With the Highest and Lowest Scores on the Well-Being Sub-Indexes

Eleven States’ Well-Being Index Scores Have Improved Steadily Since 2010

Well-being has been fairly stable nationally since 2008. However, since 2010, the first full year after the Great Recession officially ended, 11 states’ well-being scores have shown year-over-year improvement, with the largest gains seen in Nevada, Montana, Vermont, Nebraska, Iowa, and Maine. Four of these states — Montana, Vermont, Nebraska, and Iowa — also were among the top 10 well-being states in 2012 and 2013, making their continued improvement notable given their already high Well-Being Index scores.

States Showing Improvement Each Year Since 2010, and Whether They Finished in the Top 10 in Well-Being in 2012 and 2013

Implications

Overall well-being in the U.S. and within states has been fairly steady since 2008, although the national Well-Being Index score fell in 2013. The nation’s well-being declined despite improvement in economic confidence in most states. Still, steady growth in 11 states’ well-being scores since 2010 illustrates that sustained improvements in well-being are possible regardless of national trends. Four states in particular — Montana, Vermont, Nebraska, and Iowa — demonstrate that steady progress is possible, even among the top 10 well-being states.

Gallup’s research has shown that people take a variety of factors into account when evaluating their well-being. Job creation, for example, is related to well-being; Gallup’s job creation rankings for 2013 are correlated with the well-being rankings. The 2013 Payroll to Population (P2P) state rankings are also correlated with top and bottom well-being states. North Dakota, which has benefited economically from the surge in its oil industry, was the top state in both job creation and P2P in 2013. And other behavioral factors, such as smoking rates, generally line up with well-being at the state level as well.

Regardless of metrics such as employment and job creation, all states rely on strong leadership to spearhead their well-being efforts. Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative, for example, is a privately led, government-supported program designed to improve Iowa’s well-being, and has received Gov. Terry Branstad’s support since its inception. This sort of steady advocacy for higher well-being can serve as a positive example for other leaders to follow as states try to improve their residents’ well-being in 2014.

Gallup’s “State of the States” series reveals state-by-state differences on political, economic, and well-being measures Gallup tracks each day. New stories based on full-year 2013 data will be released in the coming months.

To view the full report on well-being in the U.S., visit this page.


Written by: James Kanka

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

February 03, 2014

Updates to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index in 2014

As of Jan. 1, 2014, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® transitioned to an updated version. The Well-Being Index now includes a new set of questions, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being 5™, which is based on extensive collaborative research by Gallup and Healthways. The updated Well-Being Index measures well-being with even more power and scope than previous well-being measurement tools, including the earlier version of the Well-Being Index.

The updated Well-Being Index now reflects the five essential elements of well-being:

  • Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
  • Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life
  • Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
  • Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community
  • Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily

These elements replaced the six domains that were previously used (Life Evaluation, Work Environment, Emotional Health, Basic Access, Healthy Behaviors, and Physical Health). The updated tool continues to measure life evaluation (thriving/struggling/suffering) and daily emotions, in addition to the five elements, and all of these will be reported on Gallup.com.

The updated instrument is administered nationwide, with 500 surveys to U.S. households each evening, 350 days per year. During the transitional year of 2014, well-being scores can be computed via the updated instrument using a subset of original question items that are still administered in the updated survey. These scores are comparable to scores from the original Well-Being Index.

As in the past, well-being results reported in early 2014 for cities, states, and the U.S. will use the previous full year of data collected via the original Well-Being Index in 2013. In early 2015, Well-Being Index results for these populations will be available using data collected in 2014 with the updated instrument.

Reporting will continue to include the trending of specific metrics such as obesity status, disease burden, smoking habits, exercise, and eating habits.

Learn more about how the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index works here.


Written by: James Kanka

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

January 07, 2014

Why Companies are Losing $21.8 Billion Today

By Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, and Ben Leedle, CEO of Healthways

Ten cities in America stand out when it comes to high well-being – with Boulder, Colo.; Barnstable Town, Mass.; and San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif.; as examples of cities in the top 10. Residents in these places – compared with the rest of the country – are better connected to their community, have better financial stability and physical health, and have a higher sense of purpose.

These high well-being cities tend to exhibit many shared characteristics, including lower chronic disease rates, lower incidence of obesity, more frequent exercise, less smoking, and a more positive outlook on their community. These commonalities demonstrate a consistent, mutual foundation upon which the top well-being cities attain and maintain their status as standard bearers of well-being in America.

Now, imagine how different the nation would be if the well-being of the average American worker was just as good as that of the people in the top 10 cities – an attainable and measurable goal that can be achieved with the appropriate focus by business owners and their leadership.

If every one of America’s biggest companies – those with 10,000 employees or more – got serious about the well-being of their employees and matched the well-being of our nation’s top 10 cities in just two areas (obesity and smoking), we would collectively net $21.8 billion in reduced healthcare costs and improved productivity.

That figure gets even bigger by accounting for other health conditions and all the aspects of well-being that affect an employee’s life – like strong social relationships, engagement at work, and a sense of financial security.

And every uptick in well-being would pay off for those companies in not just cost savings and improved worker productivity, but also in increased loyalty, safety, and a better customer experience. Those companies could invest their capital in growth, not healthcare costs. Their employees would put their energy into their jobs, not their illnesses, sources of stress, and struggles.

Then there are the millions of other employees working in the millions of smaller businesses throughout the country – many of whom could benefit from improved well-being, meaning the total savings for all U.S. businesses would likely be hundreds of billions of dollars every year. This would put a sizable dent in our annual $2.7 trillion in healthcare spending.

So, what can business leaders do to capture this value? First, understand that the key elements impacting an employee’s day-to-day life go well beyond physical health and include factors like financial stress, social relationships, work environment, and community involvement. The most effective strategies drive awareness around all facets of well-being; help employees develop specific goals to improve their individual well-being; provide them access to resources; and foster ongoing engagement, motivation, and encouragement. Companies that have engaged their employees this way have seen not only lower healthcare costs and improved productivity, but also lower rates of absenteeism and turnover.

Here’s the thing: Chief executives and business leaders should not wait for the government to solve our healthcare spending problem. These leaders have to step up, because no one else is better equipped. Business leadership is all about solving problems, setting strategies, demanding accountability, and building on success. To attack this problem, business leaders must understand why the residents in the top 10 cities have higher well-being, and then take action to help their employees improve their well-being.

Leaders can, in fact, solve this problem one employee, one department, and one company at a time. They just have to choose to tackle it and then put the right systems in place.

Sure, there’s an altruistic component to helping your employees improve their well-being – it will be good for them, and it will be good for our country. Importantly, however, improving well-being will also make your company perform better – and ultimately, it will be good for business.

Republished with permission from Jim Clifton’s LinkedIn

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Written by: James Kanka

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

January 03, 2014

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

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 thingThink 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.

 


Written by: Sandy Cummings

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