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Home » Koop Award Invalidity » Wellsteps Apologizes, Returns Koop Award, and Endorses Code of Conduct

Wellsteps Apologizes, Returns Koop Award, and Endorses Code of Conduct

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

Wellsteps has profusely apologized for harming Boise’s employees, according to objective and subjective health indicators, for overscreening the employees, for demonizing even the slightest consumption of alcohol, for suppressing their earlier acknowledgement that costs increased, and for mis-attributing the allegedly massive savings figures.


They’ve recognized that these smoking guns exist, of course — that much we’ve learned from other sources.  But obviously they haven’t apologized.  In case you haven’t noticed, these days refusing to apologizing is a thing. Indeed it’s more than a thing. It’s a Major Lifestyle Trend, potentially even bigger than quinoa, bidet toilets, and the Kardashians combined.

They (Wellsteps, not the Kardashians) aren’t going to give up their Koop Award voluntarily.  To paraphrase the immortal words of the great philosopher S.I. Hayakawa, they stole it fair and square. (Helps that Wellsteps’ CEO is on the award committee, of course, though you wouldn’t guess it from their announcement.)

And they (Wellsteps again, but probably also the Kardashians) certainly aren’t going to endorse the Code of Conduct.  They can’t, because they and their whole Koop Award cabal would be in immediate violation of its call for no harms to employees and no lying about outcomes.

However, the Code of Conduct is getting great reviews everywhere else, which is actually what this column is all about.

First, honest, well-intentioned, and competent vendors, brokers and consultants — none of which are connected with the Koop Committee or the Health Enhancement Research Organization — have shown their support in large numbers. The Code has garnered tons of “likes” and very supportive comments.  If you see your consultant or vendor on this list of “likers” and commenters, give them the kudos they deserve. And add your own too.


Second, Quizzify on Friday became the first vendor to endorse the Code, and will be incorporating it in every contract going forward.  Read the Quizzify statement, and urge other vendors to follow suit. Embracing the code should be easy for others like it was for Quizzify. Any honest, competent vendor should find the principles self-evident.


Third is a pleasant surprise twist, the one referred to in the Linkedin “tease” for this column.  On Sunday, I was delighted to see pick it up.  By way of background, ConscienHealth is an advocacy group for the evidence-based treatment and prevention of obesity. In their own words:

We develop strategies that are based on sound science [and] public policy, and a deep understanding of consumer needs.”

Here is a summary of what they said, but we’d urge you to read the whole shebang, because they stated it better than we did. Alone among websites with an interest in wellness, ConscienHealth speaks specifically for the overweight employees who are victimized by crash-dieting schemes and other corporate fat-shaming activities:

We now have enough regulations on the subject of employer wellness programs to make your head spin…but the most encouraging development is a code of conduct based on a simple premise: act purely to improve health and do no harm.

The folks who developed this code – Ryan Picarella, Al Lewis, Rosie Ward, and Jon Robison – applied deep knowledge of the good and the harm that employer wellness programs can do. While others fight over the fine points, this code brings us back to the big picture with a few key principles:

  1. Wellness programs should work for the benefit of employees.
  2. Programs should not single out, fine, or embarrass employees for their health status.
  3. Employers should respect and protect employee privacy.
  4. Employers should measure and report program outcomes honestly.

If those considerations seem obvious, it’s because they are. And yet we have examples of “wellness” that have disrespected, humiliated, and financially exploited employees. Sometimes it’s been done out of ignorance. Sometimes it’s a subterfuge for cost shifting to people with chronic diseases – health problems that nobody wants to have.

We here at They Said What would urge Wellsteps and other “pry, poke and prod” vendors to develop programs that satisfy those same four criteria. Unfortunately, they aren’t quite there yet. Indeed a beam of light leaving criteria #1, and #4 wouldn’t reach them for several seconds.

Disclosure: Al Lewis, who co-maintains this site, is also a principal in Quizzify, which endorsed the Code.  Attention to Wellsteps: See how conflict-of-interest disclosures work?  It’s not that hard. Next time you win a Koop Award — and based on the number of consultants and vendors on the award committee (plus sponsors) who need to be win one too, it should be your turn again in about 6 years — try disclosing your presence on the award committee in your breathless announcement of how brilliant you are.

Or, as Mark Twain said: “Always tell the truth. This will delight some people and astonish others.” We will be both, if it ever happens.

1 Comment

  1. Mitch Collins says:

    You continually top yourself. Truer words were never spoken, with the added “benefit” as pointed out by ConscienHealth that such programs disproportionately impact those who are least likely to be able to comply:

    “Sometimes it’s a subterfuge for cost shifting to people with chronic diseases – health problems that nobody wants to have.”


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