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The reward for showing your wellness program works is now $3 million!

As almost everyone in the wellness industry knows, we have offered a $2 million reward to anyone who can show that conventional annual “pry, poke and prod” wellness saves money. I’m feeling very generous today, what with the holidays upon us, so let’s make the reward $3 million.

Even more importantly, let’s loosen the rules — a lot —  to encourage applicants. You’ll find the $3 million reward is not just more generous, but also far easier to claim than the previous $2 million reward.

Loosening the Rules

Except as indicated below, the rules stay the same as in the previous posting, but with the following relaxed standards. Most importantly, I’ll now accept the burden of persuasion. It is my job to convince the panel of judges, using the standard civil level of proof, that you are wrong, as opposed to you having to convince them that I am wrong.

Next, let’s expand the pool from which the judges can be drawn. It wasn’t very nice of me to allow you to choose from only the 300 people on Peter Grant’s exclusive healthcare policy listserve, since obviously no one invited into a legitimate healthcare policy listserve thinks wellness saves money.

In addition, you can also choose among the 100+ people on Dave Chase’s email list and the 70 people on the Ethical Wellness email list. (  And to make it totally objective, we will add as judges whatever two bloggers happen to be the leading dedicated lay US healthcare economic policy bloggers at the time of the application for the award, as measured by the ratio of Twitter followers-to-Twitter-following, with a minimum of 15,000 followers.

So judges are chosen as follows: two bloggers chosen by objective formula, plus we each choose six people from among the other 460, with the other party having veto rights for 5 of them. That gives a total of 4 judges, who will choose a fifth from among those roughly 500 people.

The original rules included the requirement of defending Wellsteps’ Koop Award.  After all, the best vendor should be exemplary, right? A beacon for others to follow? A benchmark to show what’s possible when the best and brightest make employees happy and healthy?

However, now you have another option. You could instead just publicly acknowledge that the Koop Award committee is either corrupt or incompetent, as you prefer, since that possibility cannot be ruled out as a logical explanation for Wellsteps winning that award. Your choice…

Next, you may bring as many experts with you to address the adjudication forum as you wish to bring.  I, on the other hand, will be limited to myself.

Further, you no longer have to defend the proposition that wellness as a whole has saved money. You can, if you prefer, simply acknowledge that most of it has failed…except you. Meaning that, if you are a vendor that has been “profiled” on this site in the last 2 years, you can limit your defense to your own specific results. You don’t have to defend the swamp.

That new loophole allows companies like Interactive Health, Fitbit, Wellness Corporate Solutions, etc. — and especially Wellsteps — to get rich…if what I have said specifically about them is wrong. I have $3 million that says it isn’t.

Special Offer for HERO

Ah, yes, the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO). The belly of the beast.

Let me make them a special offer. Paul Terry, the current HERO Prevaricator-in-Chief, has accused me of the following  (if you link, you’ll see they had enough sense not to use my name, likely on advice of counsel, given that I already almost sued them after they circulated their poison pen letter to the media):

I’m convinced responding to bloggers who show disdain for our field is an utter waste of time. I’ve rarely been persuaded to respond to bloggers [Editors note, in HERO-speak, “rarely” means “never” — except for that intercepted Zimmerman Telegram-like missive], and each time I did it affirmed my worry that, more than a waste, it’s counter-productive. That’s because they’ll not only incessantly recycle their original misstatements, but worse, they’ll misrepresent your response and use it as fodder for more disinformation.*

Tell ya what, Paul. let’s debate disinformation, including your letter. Aside from the standard 10% entry fee (used to pay the judges honoraria, reserve the venue, and compensate me for wasting my time with your THC-infused quixotry), all the economic burden falls on me.

The only catch: I have asked you on multiple occasions to clue me in as to what my alleged disinformation actually is, if any. That way I can publicly apologize and fix it, should I choose to do so.  Before applying for this award, you need to disclose this alleged disinformation. You can’t just go around saying my information is made up etc. without specifying what it is.

By definition, “disinformation” is deliberate misrepresentation. To my knowledge, as a member of the “integrity segment” of the wellness industry, I have never, and would never, spread disinformation.

On the other hand, if I did spread inadvertently incorrect information by mistake, it seems only fair to let me fix it — especially given that I have been totally transparent and generous with my time in explaining to you what yours is, and how to correct it. (I might have missed some. Keeping up with yours is a challenge of Whack a Mole-meets-White House press correspondent proportions.)

So perhaps it is time to man up, Mr. Terry.  You and your cronies claim to have been collecting my “disinformation” for years, without disclosing any of it. I’m offering you a public forum and $3-million to present it.

Otherwise, perhaps you should, in the immortal word(s) of the great philosopher Moe Howard, shaddap.

A couple other mid-course corrections to the previous award offer.  Someone wondered if this offer is legally binding, so if your attorney’s knowledge of contract law matches your knowledge of wellness economics, they can voice their likely spurious objection. I will publish the objection and address it if need be, to make the reward a binding offer.

Another commenter whined that maybe I just won’t pay the reward. I’m sure that’s the reason no one has applied. (Not.) So put 10% of the entry fee down, and I’ll attach a lien.

And as mentioned, to close the original thread, Happy Holidays to one and all.

*As a side note, Mr. Terry writes: “We’re fortunate to work in an industry with a scant number of vociferous critics.” This “scant” number appears to include the entire medialeft-wing, right-wing, centrist, and health policyApparently also most employees, according to Towers Watson. The good news about “pry, poke and prod” is that it truly bridges the partisan divide in that everyone hates it.





Aaron Carroll’s new book asks: Can “bad food” be good for you?

When I was a kid, there was a seasoning called Accent. Both its TV commercials and its canisters featured a little horn with the slogan: “Wake up the flavor.” We poured that stuff on everything (except for our Captain Crunch), often accompanying our culinary adventures by making little horn sounds.

It turns out Accent was pure MSG. Who knew? And yet we lived to tell the tale. Neither me nor my siblings ever got headaches as kids. Or ever get headaches as adults. Indeed, we seem to have acquired some headache immunity from using this stuff. (Correlation, not causation, a good researcher would say.)

The reason, as you’ll learn in The Bad Food Bible, is that MSG isn’t bad for you, even apparently in the quantities we devoured.  (Yes, we know – you get a headache when you go to a Chinese restaurant. That could be your imagination, or you may be one of the few people with a sensitivity to it, just like a few people have sensitivities to other foods.)

MSG isn’t the only maligned food. Is butter good for you or bad? Milk? Artificial sweeteners? Organic foods? Sugar? Meat? Red meat? Tuna? Coffee? Wine? Eggs? Salt?

Oh, and don’t forget gluten. Turns out, virtually every one of these foods has been studied in depth…and here the studies in both directions are summarized and sourced.

How does this apply to wellness vendors?

Wellness vendors – and I’m looking at you, Interactive Health – want to micromanage our diet in so many ways that most employees just tune their advice out.  This book reveals that tuning vendor wellness advice out is probably the right response in most cases. Not all, but most.

We’ve shown repeatedly that wellness vendors, once they move beyond eat-more-broccoli-olive oil-nuts-and-fruit, are usually peddling very controversial or decidedly incorrect unsolicited dietary advice. Not that they care, because they show huge savings no matter what they do. One study – so seminal that it became part of Kate Baicker’s infamous “Harvard study” meta-analysis – found massive short-term savings by advising diabetics to swap out fats in favor of carbs. Not surprisingly, that study qualified the author for a coveted spot on the Koop Award Committee. Apparently bad advice is part of the Koop Award’s DNA.

What that study did and what Interactive Health does should not be called “dietary micromanagement.” Rather, it should be termed “dietary micromismanagement.”  Interactive Health’s advice to non-hypertensive diabetics and people at risk for diabetes is exactly that: swap out the whole milk for skim milk and cut way back on the salt. As a previous column noted, that turns out to be exactly the opposite of what they should do.

So what should we eat…and what shouldn’t we?

The great philosopher Dan Quayle once uttered the immortal words:  “The role of the Vice President can be summed up in one word: to be prepared.” Likewise, with the exception of sugar and soon-to-be-extinct artificial trans fats, the book can be summed up one word: chill out.

Author Aaron Carroll, part of The Incidental Economist (the country’s leading health economics blog), lays out the case for OK-in-moderation for most controversial foods. This guy doesn’t have an ax to grind – except when it comes to skewering people who have an ax to grind. He goes after faddists, extremists, and people who ignore research with a zeal approaching ours in exposing dishonest wellness vendors (and I’m looking at you, Interactive Health…and Wellsteps and Fitbit and about 50 others).

Since The Incidental Economist’s positioning is that of arbiter, not advocate – the go-to place for evidence-based answers no matter what the evidence shows – their answers on these topics are highly credible and carefully sourced. (Hence their smackdowns of the Koop Award Committee and wellness vendors are even more credible than mine.)

The answers boil down to: stop knocking yourselves out trying to be perfect. You are probably stressing more over your diet than you are gaining from fine-tuning your diet. Yes, there are a few things to avoid, like added sugars (but you knew that, or if not you would as soon as you play a round of Quizzify). Or, if you have a predisposition to hypertension due to history or ethnicity, you might want to go easy on the salt. (Most people needn’t – there is a reason your taste buds welcome the flavor).

So live a little, let your employees live a little, and know there are really only a few things that all the evidence says you truly need to avoid: trans fats, added sugars, and Koop Award-winning wellness vendors.


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