A Healthy Lifestyle Is Key

This week I want to share two articles about the importance of wellness and adopting a healthy lifestyle. The first article examines a study about employee wellness programs and their long-term impact. The second article discusses the risk and benefits of using statins to reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular problems. Below you’ll find these articles and my thoughts on their implications

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed below are those of Mark Pew, Senior Vice President of Product Development and Marketing, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Preferred Medical.

New research says wellness isn’t working. Here’s where it’s wrong 

A new study of 33,000 employees at BJ’s Wholesale Club brings to question if employee workplace wellness programs are beneficial in long-term behavioral changes. According to the outcomes of this study, those enrolled in the wellness program showed no significant long-term benefits, such as lower blood pressure or sugar levels. This study was primarily focused on education of living a healthy lifestyle, and although education is important, it is not a primary factor in getting people to change their behavior. Overall, we still need more research to determine the most impactful health intervention programs. But be careful when drawing conclusions.

Mark’s Thoughts:
I understand the concerns about wellness programs and ROI. This JAMA report found that behaviors changed but measurables (“health, health care spending and utilization, or employment outcomes”) didn’t. But as I mentioned in today’s WorkCompCentral article (subscription required), “results of a wellness program may be less tangible.” That can come from higher retention rates (culture of caring) to a more resilient workforce (reducing presenteeism). The key is getting the people that need it to use it. I’ve been told adoption rates of wellness programs typically range from 10-20% and those that join are often already fit. The key to a successful wellness program is convincing those that need to change to join. Should companies ditch wellness programs? No. Is ROI only money? No. Find a better way to recruit those that need it. Overcoming inertia (“a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged”) is the hardest thing to do. Somehow, wellness needs to be made compelling to those that need it. Here are five helpful engagement tips from Employee Benefit News:

  1. Know what employees are ready to change
  2. Start at the top
  3. Make it easy for individuals to say yes to change
  4. Support change
  5. Take health to them

We need more than medicine to prevent heart disease

The use of statins to reduce cardiovascular issues is seen as a topic with varying viewpoints. While many studies have showed that statins reduce the risk of dying from heart disease, the benefits have been exaggerated and the side effects underestimated. This article discusses the risks and benefits of statins and includes information from many different studies. Overall, the author believes that most of how we extend our life expectancy has little to do with pills and more to do with our lifestyle.

Mark’s Thoughts:
An interesting discussion about the use of statins to reduce cardiovascular issues. Especially in regards to the “calculator” used to determine risk (and reason for the prescription medication). “Although my doctor checks my cholesterol every year, it remains low and taking a statin will have a very small, if any, effect on my life expectancy. What’s worse, my doctor has never asked if I smoke cigarettes, exercise regularly, or eat a healthy diet. Asking the right questions may open opportunities to save more lives.” Sound familiar? Maybe Rx drugs are the right choice. But is each individual doing their part (eating well, sleeping well, exercising enough, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress, not smoking, etc.) in reducing risk? And is that effort’s presence—or lack thereof—being taken into account for when prescriptions are written? Bigger, more philosophical questions, we should all ask ourselves. Here are some helpful comments:

Carlos Giron: “The paradigm shift is for patients to take ownership of their health responsibilities.”

Andrew Forbes: “Part of the paradigm shift is healthcare professionals empowering patients to make those choices. Too often we have, either deliberately or inadvertently, encouraged patients to become dependent on our advice or our treatment protocols. We must also recognise the strong influence of mental health problems on decision making.”

Amrish Patel: “Failure of medicine has been to make patients responsible for disease modification. Obesity, diabetes are two prime examples where diet and exercise are factors patients can and need to modify, but often want to live how they live and take meds to not have to modify lifestyles.”

Kathy Hubble: “If we look at the global burden of disease the most significant impact is from conditions that are caused by poor lifestyle. We have an obligation as health professionals to support people to make healthy lifestyle decisions and doctors are the first line of contact.”

Leonard Hay: “Yes I agree. We need much more than just prescribing drugs en masse that do not work to regain or maintain health. The evidence has been in for many years on statins. Health is not gained or maintained simply by popping pills.”

To read everything on my mind this past week, please visit me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/marks-musings-april-29-mark-rxprofessor-pew/.

Until Next Week,