Don’t Declare War on Obesity at Your Workplace

When an issue, such as obesity, hits the “in your face” pitch it’s at now, I get a bad gut feeling. The obesity epidemic, and the war on obesity news obsession, seems too magnified right now. Last week the word “obesity” managed to dominate headlines again. The news being, it’s worse than we thought!


In June 2013, the American Medical Association (AMA) (against the advice of its scientific committee) classified obesity as a disease. But I am betting the reason for that ruling had a lot more to do about reimbursement schemes than science.

A New Way to Wellness… The Coming Renaissance

Workplace wellness started as a fitness movement 30 years ago (Association for Fitness in Business). But empty workplace fitness centers and low numbers of employees exercising indicated a need to become more comprehensive in approach. By the mid-1990s HRAs started becoming the foundation of workplace wellness programs. And because comprehensive wellness programs claimed to be able to reduce healthcare costs, tremendous pressure remains to make sure that is actually happening.

It feels like the wellness profession is where the medical profession was in the 19th century  ̶ before it was aware germs existed. It’s like we’re learning, but still missing something important that will soon be obvious.

If You Think “Plain Language” is “Dumbing Down”… You Flatter Yourself

One thing about being in the same business over 30 years – it’s always amazing to learn of new ideas that work. The possibility for improvement seems limitless. But no matter how creative we are, we risk failure if we don’t observe common truths learned over time. Here’s a big one… and it’s #2 on my all-time favorite list of common truths of communication. It’s from our popular eBook, New Perspectives in Wellness & Benefit Communications:

New Perspectives in Wellness & Benefit Communications: Less is More Think “Telegraph Message”

“He can compress more words into the smallest idea of any man I ever met.”
— Abraham Lincoln

This week I am posting a section of our popular eBook, New Perspectives in Wellness & Benefit Communications, that people have told me helped a ton in improving their writing skills. It’s the fourth of eight timeless truths in workplace (or anyplace) communications. Only a C+ Student could come up with something so simple, loaded with common sense, and easy to do. Hey, I am a big believer in critical thinking – not overthinking.

The average attention span of Americans today is roughly the time it has taken you to read this sentence. “You only have a minute to gain their attention” is an incorrect maxim. You have about 2.7 seconds. And then you have to keep their interest so they can act upon your communication?

That’s not easy, to say the least. You’re trying to reach employees at the same time they’re updating some files while instant messaging with co-workers while straightening up their desks while listening to a conference call. Do they have a minute? Actually, no.

The Health & Wellness Promotion 2013 Summer Reading Program… Book #5

Book #5: Why Nobody Believes the Numbers, Distinguishing Fact From Fiction In Population Health Management (2012). By Al Lewis. Fifth-Grade Math Debunks Bogus ROI Reports Al Lewis is entertaining, funny, and a good teacher. This is the kind of book you could market as “the book insurance companies… wellness businesses… benefit consultants…. and benefit brokers…

The Health & Wellness Promotion 2013 Summer Reading Program…Book #4

Book #4: How We Do Harm, A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America (2011). By Otis Webb Brawley, MD with Paul Goldberg

A Doctor Breaks Ranks
About Being Sick in America

This book is a sober reminder to be as wise, informed, and as active a health-care consumer as possible – and to help those we advocate for to be well informed when using health-care services.

Otis (the author likes to go by his first name) is a special person. He loves medicine – lives in the beast of the health-care system – but clearly wants to see the practice of medicine evolve into something much better. The man clearly walks his talk.

This book is easy to read. It’s organized into short, true stories that make their points as subtlety as a freight train bearing down on you. It’s a non-fiction, page turner from page one. You’ll come away with more insight into health disparities, medical ethics, end-of-life treatment, for-profit influences, and health-care supply and demand issues.

The Health & Wellness Promotion 2013 Summer Reading Program… Book #3

Book #3: DRIVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (2009). By Daniel H. Pink.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation
in Behavior Change

This is the book that launched the much-needed discussion on intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation in behavior change. It was first recommended to me by Dean Witherspoon, president of Health Enhancement Systems. Dean has a great white paper available on incentives that you should also read, “How Financial Incentives / Disincentives Undermine Wellness: Making Wellness Rewarding Without Rewards.

The Health & Wellness Promotion 2013 Summer Reading Program… Book #2

Book #2: “Helping Patients Understand Risk, 7 Strategies for Successful Communication” (2006). By John Paling, PhD.

 You’ll Never Look at Health Risks
the Same Again

This book was suggested to me by Audrey Riffenburgh, MA, of Albuquerque, NM, one of the best plain language health education professionals in the United States. This book may be one of the first to use powerful infographics (before the term became popular) in health education. It’s loaded with infographics that visually inform complex concepts using simple visuals.

Paling’s perspective regarding communication is with the patient in mind, and on making the priority of the communicator to be understood. He clearly explains the significance of relative risk and real risk. One of his greatest contributions is “The 1,000 People” graphic. It’s a box with 1,000 small human figures inside. Real risk means how many people out of the 1,000 will experience the actual result of the risk. That number of small figures is colored in and thus stands out from the rest.