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Bad News: More Good News about Wellness

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It is with a heavy heart that I report WELCOA’s new management appears to be competent and honest.

WELCOA has apparently joined the “integrity segment” of the industry.  Alas, this is the third time in a month I’ve had to say something nice about wellness, and if this keeps up I will run out of scoundrels to expose.*  My carefully cultivated Larry David-meets-Erin Brockovich image could morph into Dale Carnegie-meets-Mary Poppins.

By all accounts, their new executive director, Ryan Picarella, is not only competent and honest.  As an added bonus, he even knows how to spell.

This last item may not sound like a ringing endorsement, sort of like Benjamin telling Mrs. Robinson he considers her to be among the most attractive of all of his parents’ friends. However, at WELCOA it represents a huge improvement, because the previous ED, David Hunnicutt, was both grammatically and phonetically challenged. Alert readers may recall that Mr. Hunnicutt claimed that WELCOA was founded by the inventor of the all-you-can-eat self-service restaurant, Warren Buffet. And our “This Is Your Brain on Wellness” feature would almost not be possible without some of Mr. Hunnicutt’s wellness-meets-Yogi Berra sentence constructions.

welcoa warren buffet

Here are the four datapoints behind my read of the tea leaves that WELCOA is joining what is becoming a slightly crowded integrity segment.

First, if you google Mr. Picarella, you’ll find that he comes from outside the wellness industry.  People outside the wellness industry are more likely to actually review the data than industry insiders. And as invariably happens when someone with a triple-digit IQ reviews the data on “pry, poke and prod,” they realize most of it is made up.

Second, the WELCOA website has a new look, reflecting the pivot to the integrity segment.  It is about wellness culture now, with “pry, poke and prod” finally banished to the attic with the crazy aunt and the Koop Award committee. WELCOA is positioning for the next generation of doing wellness for employees instead of to them. Or as we say in Cracking Health Costs, “Would a general leading an army into battle rather have troops with low morale, or troops with low cholesterol?”

Third, if you follow this industry carefully, you’ll see WELCOA has distanced itself from the American Journal of Health Promotion, the wellness industry trade rag featured in previous columns here for accidentally telling the truth on two occasions, one of which they walked back when they realized they had made a true statement.

Fourth and most importantly, they have removed David Hunnicutt’s Nebraska/Health Fitness Corporation (HFC) write-up from the WELCOA website.  As word of “Cancergate” and Ron Goetzel’s botched data falsification and cover-up spreads — the state of Nebraska recently fired HFC — WELCOA apparently wants to be on the right side of this scandal. We applaud them for that.

Never thought I’d be using “WELCOA” and “applaud” in the same paragraph…

Finally, I do hear a lot of buzz in this field, and the buzz around WELCOA is distinctly positive these days.  Members of the Welligentsia, who used to send me anecdotes for inclusion in “This Is Your Brain on Wellness” now routinely tell me what a great job they are doing.

And for that, I swallow hard and very reluctantly wish them well.

*Fortunately, as I learned a few weeks ago, I can still count on Ron Goetzel and his cronies to come through in the clutch when I need new material.  For instance, they recently doubled down on dishonesty by attempting to circulate a poison pen” letter about me to the media and somehow thinking it wouldn’t be exposed. After it did get exposed, they admitted it had no basis in fact.

Mind you, I’m not calling anyone liars here. I’m just saying that a beam of light leaving “honesty” wouldn’t reach this cabal for several seconds.  And I love being the subject of their innumerate rants. It is the closest I will ever come to realizing my childhood dream of being on Nixon’s enemies list.

Or it may be they aren’t consciously lying, in which case their math skills couldn’t get them a job as the “before” muppet on Sesame Street.


  1. drrosieward says:

    I’ve been beyond pleased with the changes Ryan is working to bring to WELCOA and the industry…kudos to you for acknowledging it.:) That organization is a massive barge off-course that will take time to turn, but he’s captaining it well and moving full steam ahead. So refreshing from the rest of the “stuckness” that plagues this field!


  2. cajunfit says:

    Grea to hear this Al! I had basically avoided the WELCOA site a few years ago after I started following your work, but these changes make me want to add the site to my bookmark list again. 🙂 Take care,

    Chris J.


  3. No surprise. Ryan is a person of high integrity as well as intelligence. He continues to raise the leadership bar for the health promotion field. He and others like him (unfortunately, few in number) give me hope for the future of this industry.


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