If you listen to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you would think chronic disease is the main health problem we face, and workplace wellness is the main weapon we have to face it with. I know what you’re thinking (at least for the former): isn’t it?
Nope. The country’s main health problem — at least among those addressable by the CDC as opposed to by Congress — is something else altogether, essentially the opposite of what the Wellness Ignorati say it is. But before we reveal the answer, let’s review the CDC’s chronic disease talking points, which naturally are hilarious, as most talking points in support of wellness tend to be.
First, in the screenshot below, they quote the “arresting” statistic that “7 out of 10 deaths are due to chronic disease.” Um, that is called civilization, folks. Countries where 7 out of 10 deaths are due to causes other than chronic disease would love to have this arresting statistic. In case anyone doesn’t believe that the CDC — or indeed, that any human being other than a wellness vendor — could possibly be so stupid as to think civilization is a problem that needs solving, here is the screenshot, and here is the link.
Second, they recently bumped the “75% of costs are due to chronic disease” urban legend in the first line of the screenshot to a mind-boggling 86%. Surely even the dumbest CDC employee can’t believe this. Surely they can back-of-the-envelope an estimate that birth events, preventive care, and trauma alone account for much more than 14% of spending. Birth events by themselves account for about 16% of all hospital discharges.
Meanwhile, wellness vendors are now flogging those “7 of 10 deaths” and “86% of the nation’s healthcare cost” statistics to lobby Congress for wellness subsidies. Congress had wisely stopped funding one of the CDC’s many wellness boondoggles (Work@Health). That didn’t sit well with the industry, so they are starting a lobbying campaign. Fortunately, if their lobbying prowess is anything like their wellness prowess, the budget deficit is not likely to increase anytime soon. The letter reads:
Here is the real problem
This would all be very amusing, as the CDC and wellness vendors converge on these two statistics like monarch butterflies of innumeracy, except that our health is stake. And that (finally) brings me to the title of this posting.
The Maginot Line, as you might recall, proved about as worthless combating the Nazis as the CDC’s wellness obsession is today in combating the real healthcare problem: a massive explosion in blood-borne infections, or septicemia. While the CDC, wellness vendors, and of course the Health Enhancement Research Organization are all atwitter about diabetes and heart attacks (which none of these people can prevent and whose admissions in combination have been in check in all subpopulations for many years), consider ICD-9 038.9, Septicemia. There were 928,000 inpatient cases in 2013, the last year available.
It’s not just that it’s huge, almost twice as costly as the next most costly ICD9. It’s also exploding:
- has increased almost sevenfold;
- is now the by far the largest single diagnosis code;
- twice as costly as the second-largest…
- …and its growth is accelerating?
More importantly, why doesn’t anyone at the CDC seem to care about pathogens? This is what they are supposed to do–identify pathogens and prevent, contain or eradicate them.
Literally anyone (almost 1 in 300 people annually) could get a cut or injury or infection in the hospital, get septicemia, and, 13% of the time, die. Yet the CDC is blissfully unaware of this. If you’ve heard this “blissfully unaware” song before, the CDC’s Wellness Watchdogs also completely missed the workplace opioid epidemic. That happened right under their noses. The drugs were legal, prescriptions were filled, and PBMs paid for them.
Where was the CDC when this was happening? The same place the wellness industry was: nowhere. Most health risk assessments queried about illegal drug use and alcohol, but abuse of legal opioids? Off the table.
We can’t let the CDC overlook this epidemic too, due to their singularly misguided wellness obsession. We need to embarrass them into action–please send this note around to as many people as possible.
And if you’re wondering how the CDC (with the very notable exception of NIOSH!) has dumbed down so fast, so was I. These were, after all, the people who rid the US of malaria and rid the world of smallpox. So I did a little search on their site.
The first thing I noticed was that their workplace wellness information is “science-based.” That was the giveaway. In wellness, the phrase “science-based” means “not science-based.” To use one example, Wellsteps’ claim that their ROI model is “based on every ROI study ever published.” This translates as: “We made the whole thing up.”
Additionally, the references the CDC relied upon should look familiar. Besides being comprised of the usual serial liars, serial cheaters, and serial idiots, the list of references ends with Katherine Baicker, truly the Typhoid Mary of the workplace wellness epidemic–and hence one of the people most responsible for advising the CDC to create the Maginot Line that failed to prevent or event identify the opioid and bacteria epidemics that have taken millions more lives than workplace wellness has ever saved.
By the way, while you were reading this and the links, 6 to 12 more people (depending on how fast you read) just contracted a hospital-acquired infection, with probably 1 or 2 people dying from it.
To put that in perspective, the comparable statistics for wellness would be that 6 to 12 vendors just lied to their prospects, with 1 or 2 prospects believing them.