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Home » HERO » HERO challenges us to a debate — Webinar April 22

HERO challenges us to a debate — Webinar April 22

Do you know whether heartburn pills are safe for long-term use?

This is the fifth in a series on the HERO report on wellness outcomes measurement.  The previous installments can be found here


Doesn’t really need a caption, does it?

The Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) has invited us to debate the merits of “pry, poke, prod, and punish” wellness programs, on April 22. The invitation is reproduced below and available in full here.


They didn’t ask us to debate.  (They didn’t even invite us to attend.) By contrast, we have offered to debate many times. We’ve even offered literally a million-dollar reward for them to debate their outcomes metrics with us.

Here’s what really happened. We received emails from many people giving us the heads-up that HERO is holding a webinar during which they will spin their information published in their report where they say wellness loses money and is bad for morale into the opposite conclusion. If this seems confusing, it is.

Ironically, they said that we have “created confusion in the marketplace,” when in reality they were the ones who created the confusion, by providing information that they are now trying to walk back. The report seems perfectly clear – wellness loses money. Nonetheless the Wellness Ignorati are befuddled by their belated observation that it was they who supplied this information. No surprise here. Through the years we have noticed that the Wellness Ignorati are easily befuddled, especially by information.

By contrast, no one can say we confuse anything. We have always been consistent: “pry, poke, prod and punish” programs are losers for all concerned, except the vendors and consultants who naturally are running this webinar. For the Wellness Ignorati, it’s all about the money.

Quizzify 2

Yes, this is our new company where we do wellness the right way…and guarantee savings

One of the fundamental differences between us and the Wellness Ignorati is that we are pro-transparency and have nothing to fear from publicizing them, so we are attaching their invitation below and urging people to attend, whereas even as they disparage our observations, they refuse to mention the existence of this website.

No surprise there either: if people find out this website exists, they might visit and learn actual facts. Facts, of course, are the worst nightmare for the Wellness Ignorati. That’s how they earned the appellation–by employing a strategy of ignoring facts.

This is even true when they themselves published the facts.

Curiously, this is the second time in recent months that the Wellness Ignorati have written that wellness loses money. At some point if they keep insisting wellness loses money, we have to believe them. The last time, Michael O’Donnell’s journal concluded (we’ll use a screenshot):

ajhp baxter

We would attend this webinar ourselves except that we are not invited. In any event, our attendance track record is not encouraging. The last time we listened to a Ron Goetzel webinar, we were disconnected after asking that he not use our copyrighted material without attribution. Ultimately we had to get our publisher, John Wiley & Sons, to make him cease and desist.

Still, we’d love it if you would attend, and here are some questions you could ask.  First about the HERO Report:

  • Why did they say wellness damages morale and corporate reputations if they are now saying that it doesn’t?
  • Why did they say a wellness program only costs $18/year when the biometric screens alone cost more than $18/year?
  • How can they say that companies should allocate only $18/employee/year to a wellness program when their own invitation below says that to be successful, a program must be “comprehensive” and  “well-resourced”?
  • Why did they omit their own carefully compiled list of 11 elements of cost other than vendor fees from that $18 figure?
  • If wellness only saves $12/employee/year before fees according to their own figures, how can it save money if it costs $18?
  • Why are there so many rookie mistakes in this report, like “forgetting” to adjust the decline in cardiac events for the secular decline in cardiac events that the entire country is enjoying?
  • If their methodology is so sound, how come they haven’t collected their million-dollar reward when all they have to do was apply fifth-grade math to a simple word problem without lying?
Slide1 (1)

When facts interfere, just twist and turn them, like a pretzel









And while you’re in attendance anyway, there are 11 still-outstanding questions  for Mr. Goetzel himself, that he has steadfastly refused to answer. Here are a few you could ask:

  • Why does he keep insisting that the Nebraska wellness program – whose vendor admitting lying about saving the lives of cancer victims – is a “best practice” or “exemplar” program?
  • Why does he always give Koop Awards to customers and clients of his sponsors and board members, even when they claim 100 times as much savings as they themselves said was possible?
  • Who “unfortunately mislabeled” the key slide that invalidates the industry’s obviously fallacious participant-vs-non-participant methodology and why did neither he nor any other analytical luminary on the Koop Committee notice it until we pointed it out four times?
  • Why has he refused to answer these questions even though Al Lewis has offered to answer any questions you could ask him?

In one respect, though, the Ignorati are finally making progress in the integrity department. This invitation is 100% Kate Baicker-free. Maybe, finally, they are accepting the reality that she has walked back her 3.27-to-1 ROI not once, not twice, not three times, but four times. (Four seems to be the magic number of times needed to point out a fact to the Wellness Ignorati before they admit its existence.)


Don’t Throw Out the Baby with the Bathwater – A Measured Response to Critics of Workplace Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Programs

April 22, 2015 

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Central Time

(Members only event)

Recently, several individuals have raised doubt about the efficacy and cost-benefit of workplace health promotion and disease prevention programs (otherwise known as wellness programs). These critics cast doubt on the very core of work site wellness efforts and have generated widespread publicity. They argue against the benefits of prevention and workplace health promotion, question the validity of ROI estimates, and aim to restrict the use of outcomes-based wellness incentives. These criticisms have created confusion in the market. This session will re-state the business case for adopting evidence-based, comprehensive, and well-resourced workplace health promotion programs. It will also review the methods used to evaluate these programs in “real world” settings, but also acknowledge the limitations of “average” programs that may not produce expected outcomes. Finally, Dr. Goetzel will comment on value-on-investment (VOI) approaches to assessment of workplace programs in contrast to the more traditional return-on-investment (ROI) models.


  1. Mitch Collins says:

    Does Value on Investment mean the pretzel has given up on ROI? I assume so; if real measures do not work, make up a new one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      “Value on Investment” must include the morale improvement. Oh, wait, morale is damaged. I think the advantage of value-on-investment is that no one can measure it.


  2. Leo Tolstoy says:

    What kind of monster would aim to restrict the use of outcomes-based incentives?

    Actually if I could make a suggestion, I would very much like to see someone produce a definitive dismantling of outcomes-based incentives. According to the article linked below, they are fair, simple, and they work. Can you not imagine the author offering a similar defense of 1960’s voting literacy tests?

    Although you and others have done a fine job exposing the flaws in this particular incentive model, they continue to increase in popularity. There must be an opportunity here for someone to conduct a more successful attack on the incredibly flawed ethical and practical assumptions on which this entire incentive model rests. Something very targeted, precise, accessible, and capable of going viral among HR groups. Just a thought.


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      Totally with you, my friend. A lot of journalists have inquired about this but none have followed through on something that wasn’t a “he said-she said” of the laziest kind.


  3. LadyDi says:

    just so you know, it’s not just you. They aren’t inviting the general public to this members-only webinar. That says a lot.


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      They could have made thousands of dollars opening this to paying non-members–but then there would be the chance someone would take a screenshot of one of their typical lies and forward it to us.

      To prevent further erosion of support, as more and more people actually learn to think for themselves, they are rallying the “low-information voters,” their hard-core base. It would be like if Mitt Romney had had to campaign in Salt Lake City — or when Michael Dukakis really did have to campaign in Massachusetts.


In the immortal words of the great philosopher Pat Benatar, hit me with your best shot.

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