They Said What?

Home » HERO » 7 Take-Aways from the HERO-Goetzel Webinar in Defense of Wellness

7 Take-Aways from the HERO-Goetzel Webinar in Defense of Wellness

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

This is the sixth in a series on the HERO disinformation campaign around wellness ROI.  The other six installments can be found here.


They said what?

This afternoon HERO and Ron Goetzel conducted an entire Groundhog Day-type webinar as though They Said What, the entire media, and 2015 don’t exist.

They talked about the “confusion in the marketplace” (to quote their invitation) without once even mentioning the source (us) of the confusion in the marketplace.  Actually all we did was point out that they contradicted themselves in their own report. They created the confusion by inadvertently telling the truth.

Slide1 (1)

Time to make the pretzels

Here are some of the things they are still saying, that they know to be somewhere between misleading and lies. Apparently Mr. Goetzel lived up to his billing as Goetzel “the Pretzel” by basically twisting  “wellness loses money” into wellness makes money,” though he admitted to some “controversy” around the latter point.

First, he is still quoting the Kate Baicker 3.27-to-1 ROI, that he knows to have been thoroughly discredited.  We’ve blogged about that extensively–this link will take you to a series of other links.  To wit:

  • She’s walked it back 4 times.
  • RAND’s Soeren Mattke has attacked it (and those of you who know Soeren–he is a very thoughtful and polite guy–you really have to be way off-base to get his dander up).
  • Another researcher has pointed out that many of the studies in her meta-analysis were basically made up.
  • Many of these studies were claiming reductions in diabetes expense and obesity at the same they were telling people to eat more carbs and less fat, exactly the opposite of what would reduce diabetes incidence and possibly obesity.  And yet somehow money was saved…

Second, the Ignorati are still quoting the American Journal of Health Promotion meta-analysis and Mr. Goetzel pretzeled his way around the accidental conclusion of that paper that high-quality studies show a negative ROI.

Third, Mr. Goetzel strongly criticized the Penn State fiasco.  Hmm…maybe we’re mis-remembering this, but we seem to recall he was one of the leaders of that jihad. Here is a article about a meeting in which he and several others “take the offensive” in the controversy.  Or maybe that was another Ron Z. Goetzel.

goetzel penn state

Fourth, he said: “There’s some healthy debate going on.” But the irony is, there is no debate.  Partly this is because they are steadfastly refusing to debate.  And partly this is because there is nothing to debate–they admitted “pry, poke, prod and punish” wellness loses money and damages morale.  The only places we disagree are how much money gets lost and how badly morale is damaged.

Fifth, he is still comparing participants to non-participants, as though he hadn’t been forced — by the existence of a “smoking gun” slide — to basically admit that participants significantly outperform non-participants even in the absence of a program.

Sixth, he pretzeled RAND’s Pepsico analysis in Health Affairs, overlooking the fact that the study concluded wellness loses money.  Obviously we wouldn’t have congratulated Dr. Mattke on his huge success with that article (#2 article of the year in Health Affairs) if it had reached the conclusion Mr. Goetzel said it did.

Finally, the most notable feature was the dog-not-barking-in-the-nighttime.  Not once was there any rebuttal to our observations.  The Wellnes Ignorati have placed themselves in a difficult position.  In order to rebut us, they would have to acknowledge our existence. But ignoring our existence — and the existence of facts generally — is the core component of the Ignorati strategy.

By the way, our source, expecting a spirited rebuttal, instead got supremely bored by the insight-free recycled and invalid material in the presentation, and dropped off before the slam-bang conclusion to the webinar.  We doubt there were any other members of the Welligentsia on that webinar but if there were–and you have something to share about the closing minutes that you don’t see mentioned in here — please do.


No pretzels here




  1. Susan says:

    I wasn’t on the call but I’d like to see a real rebuttal because to me it looks like HERO is a bunch of total losers who can’t even keep their lies straight. Why doesnt’ someone from HERO just comment here and give their side of the story?


  2. Mitch says:

    Al and Vik:

    In private some of the HERO folk bash you and Vik….but never your data, numbers or analysis. That’s always a clear indicator that you won. Sort of like Galileo branded as a heretic but no mention of the pesky fact of the earth revolving around the sun.

    I also noted in one of the HERO discussions that they have a work group looking at measures “beyond ROI.” Struck me as odd since they haven’t gotten to ROI yet, so how can they go beyond. Just sayin’……


  3. Ralph Colao says:

    For those of you that actually don’t know HERO, the organization has never condoned only “pry, poke, prod and punish” wellness strategies as illustrated by the HERO Best Practice Scorecard. Go on the HERO website and take a look at what HERO currently defines as a well-designed program (via the scorecard elements). Secondly, also read the HERO White Paper on what a reasonably designed outcomes-based program should look like. It was co-written by representatives from a number of organizations, not just the HERO cronies that get referred to so often by this group. Thirdly, the number one research item on HERO’s research agenda is related to organizational culture, its impact on individual health and what makes up a healthy culture. Believe it or not, there is even a study committee, again made up of representatives from multiple disciplines, exploring the elements of a supportive organizational culture. HERO has always been about a comprehensive approach to health & wellbeing.


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      Ralph, thanks for the comment. I noticed you didn’t dispute our math, nor did they. If they are getting away from “pry, poke, prod and punish,” we would be very supportive, so we hope you are right and appreciate your stepping forward on their behalf.

      The funny thing about “4P” programs is no one actually admits to doing them, everyone is opposed to them…and yet they are ubiquitous.


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