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The Wellness Industry Stars of 2016

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

On Monday, we announced the 2016 Deplorables Awards, highlighting the bad hombres and nasty women who’ve made the wellness industry what it is. In this post we recognize instead those good hombres and gracious women who’ve been trying to make the industry what it should be.

They too deserve recognition for the great work they did in 2016. I apologize if I’ve left anyone off. If you feel like you should be recognized, or know someone who should be recognized, just ping me for inclusion in next week’s Part 2.

Being in first place is not news if you’re the New England Patriots, and have led your division for something like 12 of the last 14 years. Worst-to-first is what generates news, though…and that’s exactly why we are highlighting WELCOA.  (Their “worsts” were well-chronicled on this site during the David Hunnicutt era.)

WELCOA’s new executive director, Ryan Picarella, is leading the way both on adoption of the Code of Conduct (and standing firm against Wellsteps calling him part of our “gang of bullies” for supporting it) and in general leadership.  Quizzify has signed up for WELCOA and even though our year doesn’t start until January, we are already very impressed with their professionalism, timeliness etc.  Quizzify would support them on principle, but joining their Premier Provider Network could easily be justified on merit alone. Current PPN vendors report getting many inquiries.

Speaking of which, next up would be Quizzify.  Quizzify, in addition to having earned the privilege to carry the Harvard Medical School shield, was first vendor of any kind to adopt the Code of Conduct, and among the early companies to earn validation from the Validation Institute.

Rather than do a sales pitch here (Quizzify has its own website for that), I would simply ask employers a question: If employees spend an average of about $10,000/year of your money on healthcare, why not invest $1 PEPM to help teach them how to spend it wisely? To decide whether they will learn anything, play the game yourself to see if you do.

Speaking of the Code of Conduct, this list wouldn’t be complete with mentioning Salveo Partners. Rosie Ward of Salveo Partners penned the actual Code of Conduct (with input from her partner Jon Robison, myself and of course Ryan Piccarella, the four of us comprising the aforementioned “gang of bullies”).  I found myself dog-earing many pages of their book How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work.  

The Code of Conduct has attracted other adherents besides its authors, Quizzify, the 149 people who have “liked” it, and the 29 very positive commenters. Some of the most respected vendors also jumped on board…and it didn’t take long for them to do so. Any honest vendor committed to improving employee health should have no issue with it. Indeed, the most pushback our “Gang of Bullies” gets from honest vendors is: “Shouldn’t we be going farther than just respecting employee dignity, doing no harm, and not lying about outcomes?”

To that we say, most vendors can’t even meet those standards. Hence the pushback from HERO, Optum and Wellsteps.

On the other hand, It Starts with Me and Medencentive have both endorsed the Code and been validated by the Validation Institute — a twofer matched only by Quizzify. Sterling Wellness lives up to its name — these folks have endorsed the Code and while they don’t yet have validation, I can tell you firsthand that their excellent program could certainly meet the standard needed for validation, should they choose to pursue it.

US Preventive Medicine and Healthways are the reverse: two of the rare wellness vendors that have earned validation for at least one of their programs or results.

Speaking of validation, a big shout-out to the Validation Institute. 2 years later, no one has ever been able to find a mistake in their any of their validation language for any of their validated entities.  This is despite the fact that, as we’ve noticed with the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), finding whoppers in industry association materials is not exactly a heavy lift.

Another industry association makes the list: The Corporate Health and Wellness Association.  They are everything HERO isn’t: honest, competent, and committed to advancing the evolution of employee health programs.  And popular too: About five times as many people attended their fall conference as attended HERO’s, which shows that most people prefer not to pay money in order to be lied to.

The media had a tough year in 2016, but if there is one topic they aced, it’s wellness. Here at TheySaidWhat, we  media, whether it be trade or lay, lamestream or right-wing.  We keep a complete list of all articles on wellness. Special shout-outs to:

And, course, the New York Times‘ economics bloggers, The Incidental Economists, earns plaudits for the single best wellness smackdown ever.

I’d also like to thank people who consistently reblog, retweet, repost — or even comment using their real names. There are a lot, so I’ll be saving some for Part Two (and if you think I’ll miss one, ping me now). Tom Emerick, Krisna Hanks, Mitch Collins, Bill Fabrey, Nicole Ausmus come to mind.

But most of all, to paraphrase the immortal words of the great philosopher Yogi Berra, I’d like to thank everyone who made this blog necessary.  That would be the liars, idiots, cheaters, and misanthropes who have provided seemingly endless material for TheySaidWhat. If not for them, there wouldn’t be an opportunity to highlight people doing things right.


  1. Mitch Collins says:

    Your usual good stuff. Thanks for the notice…..


  2. Dell Dorn says:

    Please, is there a simple list of wellness company good guys?
    i clicked thru every link in your post but couldn’t “that list”.


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      I would look at the Validation Institute (, taking into account the actual validation language, which can be very constrained. Most who apply get validation, but few get it for overall outcomes or savings. (Rather they get it for some specific intermediate outcome or measurement technique in the contract.)

      I would also look at the “likes” and comments in the Code of Conduct post. They will reveal good guys too. Or, just ask a wellness vendor to publicly endorse the Code. The good guys will.


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      by the way, that is a good idea, thank you. I might do that for 2017, post a list of “good guys.”


  3. Medencintive has impressed me as a physician in my own practice and as a HIT expert. My patients feel empowered in receiving information following our visits on how to manage their health, wellness and chronic conditions. “Information Therapy” that they use to promote the docs diagnosis from the visit is timely and supports what many times a patient may have otherwise not heard/remembered from their appointment. It is making a difference in outcomes and cost of care!


  4. Brent says:

    Heath costs are skyrocketing with no end in sight. Companies and our economy can’t sustain double-digit increases in health costs. Here comes along a company with a straight-forward and simple solution – arm patients with knowledge and arm physicians with an internet based simple-to-use communication method. Health literacy. MedEncentive’s (we periodically work with this digital health analytical company) plan and program offers a way we can corral health costs while at the same time improve health outcomes. A win-win.



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