Facts are the wellness industry’s kryptonite.
How do we know this?
Last month you may have seen ads from the Health Enhancement Research Organization for something called The JAMA Wellness Study: A Balanced Discussion.
Unfortunately for anyone who for whatever reason dialed into this session, that’s an hour you’ll never get back. Balancing fact and fiction in a webinar leads to curious results. For instance, here’s what would you’d learn by attending a “balanced” webinar on astronomy:
- Ptolemy: The sun revolves around the earth.
- Copernicus: The earth revolves around the sun.
- Balance: The earth revolves halfway around the sun and the sun revolves halfway around the earth.
And that’s exactly what happened here. Instead of actually presenting factual information, as in their very own candid albeit subsequently retracted foray into integrity, HERO wrote:
Hundreds of research studies published in scientific journals conclude that well designed, evidence based, comprehensive health and well-being initiatives work. We know this, yet occasionally, a new study is published that is inconsistent with the overall body of research.
The only thing more tortured than the grammar of that passage are the logic and the facts. Logically, math and science are not popularity contests. It wouldn’t matter if “hundreds of research studies” say the opposite, if indeed the opposite is wrong as a matter of arithmetic proof.
In any event, there are not “hundreds of research studies” showing “evidence-based” wellness programs work, for the simple reason that (along with the math) the “evidence basis” goes exactly the other way.
- The US Preventive Services Task Force and Choosing Wisely recommend against screening the stuffing out of employees, based on the evidence (“tests and screenings can cause problems”);
- You can’t pay people to lose weight any more than you can pay people to cure disease. Obviously if financial incentives were all it took to lose weight, Oprah Winfrey would be Size 2 by now. Quite the contrary, outcomes-based wellness that by definition requires paying people to lose weight, or fining them if they don’t, causes binge-eating and crash-dieting…and has seriously harmed employees with eating disorders;
- The last 5 winners of the wellness industry’s C. Everett Koop Award lost money–and in the most recent case of Wellsteps, harmed employees;
- The last 12 studies published have shown huge losses.
Having seen this webinar promoted, I thought it would be a good idea to enlist some card-carrying grownups to do a fact-based webinar as a counterpoint to a webinar balancing fact and fiction.
One of the original entries in my Rolodex (and that’s how far back we go) for card-carrying grownups would be the Pittsburgh Business Group on Health. PBGH is hosting a webinar on this very topic (meaning wellness) on July 9th. It will present actual facts about wellness outcomes. In that sense it will be the first webinar of its kind following the release of the JAMA study. Entitled Wellness: Is It Time for a Reboot, the registration link is here.
One fact all parties can agree on, unfortunately, is that this webinar will set you back $25. (There are a few friend-of-Al promo codes available.)
“And so, Little Miss Minnow, the wolf ate the big bad outcomes-based wellness vendor, and all the employees lived happily ever after.”