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This is Your Brain on Wellness



Quizzify your workforce instead of doing wellness to them.

  1. Apologies for the blurry screen shots.  We opted to cut-and-paste directly because otherwise no one would believe this stuff…
  2. You should also link to the “Smoking Guns”  and Golden Squirrel Awards –plenty more hilarity watching vendors try to out-stupid one another
  3. We’ve linked on the allusions you may not recognize because you are too old or too young

WellnessFactors presents: Wellness Fit for a King


imperial margarine


Beware of Vendors Bearing Gifts

cigna annual checkup less Cigna name

However, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine, checkups do more harm than good

nejm checkup clipping

…which may possibly be why both the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Physicians — the people who make the actual money doing these checkups — recommend against annual physicals.

There are good reasons to go to the doctor. The earth completing a revolution of the sun is just not one of them.

We Bet Enron’s Wellness Program Saved Even More Money

Navistar perpetrated the second-biggest accounting scandal of the decade, getting thrown off the stock exchange, firing successive CFOs, writing off $4-billion, and suing its auditors. But their wellness program still saved a whopping 400-to-1 in”direct and indirec [sic] costs.”

harris allen 400-to-1

In the immortal word of the great philosopher Rick Perry, oops.  The ROI didn’t “exceed 400-to-1” that “easily” because after the impossibility of that ROI was pointed out, 90% of it disappeared, not unlike the aforementioned $4-billion in phony equity.

harris allen 40-to-1


Hate employee wellness? Priority Health suggests two alternatives

priority health

American Journal of Health Promotion advocates statehood for Puerto Rico–and Guam and the Marianas Islands and seven other territories



Well, maybe not every single eensy-beensy teeny-weeny last one of them

midland health


Superman Meets Wellness:  Health Fitness Corp.’s Program Makes the World Spin Backwards

total savings chart

HFC didn’t start the program until 2006 (“Treatment Year”) but according to their own slide savings started in 2005 (gap between blue and red lines).  Here is the back story.

Seinfeld Meets Wellness:  US Corporate Wellness Achieves Huge Savings by Doing Nothing…

us corporate wellness


...and Wellsteps saves money even if there is no reduction in obesity and smoking…

wellsteps no change graph

…or if you hand out cigarettes and Big Macs in the lobby:

You read that right: even if your smoking and obesity rates increase from 0% to 99%, Wellsteps “ROI calculator” (which curiously doesn’t even calculate an ROI) shows that they will save you money.

The top of this slide says: “Email a colleague about this tool.”  We agree.  After you read the full write-up on Wellsteps, definitely email a colleague and tell them what a tool this is.

Total Wellness is urging that wellness programs be

total wellness stern

Perhaps their reference accounts include the US Marine Corps and…


…Chase & Sanborn


From July 2008 to June 2009, Avivia conducted the fastest 3-year study in history

kaiser three year study



Cerner’s diagnosis for terminally ill patient:  “Blood pressure higher than what is ideal”

cerner pulse

Yeah, I know, I shouldn’t enter phony numbers into HRAs to get a good laugh by showing how vendor models are fabricated.  But I didn’t. This is the screenshot from their brochure.

PS  We don’t know if this employee survived.  A few people with “pulse differentials” of 20 (systolic minus diastolyic) are lucky enough to leave the hospital alive.  Thank goodness Cerner’s HRA caught it.  That borderline hypertension’ll get you every time.

In addition to the usual 3.27-to-1 ROI, LifeDojo’s wellness programs can increase revenues by 40%…


…by achieving the following outcome:


Hey, at least no one can accuse them of lying, which makes them unique in this field.  (However, it should be noted that the percent of employees willing to be weighed twice who achieved that endpoint on their own would be close to 1 in 3 anyway.)


One Two Three Four.  Open Your Email and Sweat Some More.

Over the course of a year-long weight loss “campaign,” Pfizer’s employees who opened their weight-related emails lost 2.4 ounces while those who didn’t open those emails gained 1.6 ounces.  Possibly this entire difference can be attributed to the caloric expenditure needed to click through, read the message and then swear at Pfizer for cluttering their inbox with this tripe.


And let it never be said that Ron Goetzel and his colleagues lack a sense of humor — they gave this program a C. Everett Koop Award.

Pfizer Should Have Hired HealthyWage

With more than 200,000 participants across America collectively losing over 10 million lbs. and gaining over $2.5 million in cash prizes for their pound shedding success…it’s clear this company’s weight wagering methodology is extremely powerful

Powerful Indeed! The average participant, for a modest $12.50 incentive, lost 50 pounds…

…which isn’t as “powerful” as Total Well-Being, which got “consumers accountable for their health” to lose almost half their weight:


Hopefully at some point the “consumer” will be “empowered” enough to ask for something to eat before they starve to death.


Provant Forgot to Renew Its Subscription to the New York Times

Provant water consumption

nyt upshot

nyt upshot text

provant water 2

By removing those complex consonants?

castlight ACA


“Disruptive” indeed!  Bravo is providing wellness services to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay

bravo captives

Vivify wants to make sure you understand their concepts, and get their ideas 

Their program is “simple and easy.”  They use “weight scales.” And “with appropriate connectivity, patients can engage in real-time interactive videoconferencing.”   And they have an “ROI of $2.44 return for every dollar invested.”
Wanna know a little more about them, as in who they are?

vivify about us

In addition to Obamacare, we now have another new law to contend with…

star affordable healthcare act

…and still another new law, which has its own accreditation standards



Was Heathiest You absent the day the teacher taught math?

500 insured people times slightly more than 3 visits per insured person (which they call 12.3 visits for a family of four) doesn’t equal 1250.



On the whole it was a very good year for the undertaker

If you have diabetes, the CDC says you have a 150% chance of dying.

cdc diabetes mortality

That’s Why I Fell for the Leading Leader of the Pack



Health Fairs Direct channels Yogi Berra

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

health fairs direct yogi berra

Vote Early and Often for Viverae’s Screeners

Viverae University skilled personnel

Consider these listed qualifications.  Viverae’s screeners are:

  1. Skilled
  2. University-trained
  3. Supervised by “personnel.”

You can’t get more qualified than that.  Assuming they weren’t born in Canada or Kenya, they could even run for president.

Well, maybe quality control is not that extremely important…

angioscreen quality control


Come again?  I didn’t quite catch your name.


To paraphrase the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, it’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than be a salesperson for Pharmanex and remove all doubt

Our ROI is show / tracked by the insurance companies we have “on board” with our program. Obviously do to the confidential nature of our sales pipeline I can’t provide names but I can state our findings: absenteeism rate saving of $1. invested = $ 5.82 savings. You are so correct in your statement (in summery) about “employee by in” . We contribute our success to the fact that we can prove the antioxidant / oxidation stress (ROS) health (on site) right in the brake rooms with a 30 second scan.

Total Wellness Will Make You a Job Offer You Can’t Refuse

Total wellness recognizes the importance of a “fostering a positive culture” for recruiting “talented employees.”

total wellness culture

And what better way of “fostering a positive culture” for your employees than by screening the stuffing out of them?

total wellness nicotine

Because, after all, nothing says “talented employee” like low body fat.

But wait…there’s more.  Total Wellness offers the total package of totally inappropriate screens.

You can never be too rich or too thin…especially too thin, if you’re Kurbo Health


WELCOA was founded by the inventor of the all-you-can-eat self-serve restaurant

Warren Buffet?



JD Salinger Meets Trotter Wellness and WELCOA

Remember that scene in Catcher in the Rye when Stradlater gets Holden to write his English composition but tells him not to put all the commas in the right places so the teacher won’t suspect he wrote it?  The good news is, no worries about confusing Holden Caulfield with WELCOA.  In their ad for Trotter Wellness, WELCOA didn’t put any of the commas in the right places.


Frankly, we’re not sure WELCOA has ever put a comma in the right place.

At the risk of ruining a joke by explaining it, it’s not just that all the punctuation is missing from the descriptor.  It’s that according to Trotter’s own web page reproduced below, the particular spot WELCOA’s literary lions decided to place a comma shouldn’t have one.  This gives WELCOA both a false-positive rate and a false-negative rate of 100%.  Even in wellness that’s a bit on the high side.


PS  Seems like we’re always delivering bad news here.  Trotter, we hate to be the ones to have to tell you this, but: there is no such designator as an “Ltd” in US corporate law.

PPS  It’s rare that we recommend navigating away from our own site (briefly) but Trotter’s Glassdoor reviews are even funnier than this site.  If multiple employees telling almost exactly the same story are to be believed, the only thing Trotter is a “recognized leader” in is:  lying.


WELCOA Actually Causes People to Spell Differently, Study Shows

welcoa perdue

We look forward to the annual football game between the Fighting Irish and the Fighting Chickens.



Treadwell Offers a Unique Perspective on Anatomy and Physiology…

A patented methodology uses the human body’s 2nd heart, the calf muscles, to increase the velocity of blood in the circulatory system without increasing the vital signs of the user while the user provides all the energy to power the device;  Remarkable and Unique! This supports the body in ways of no other activity or movement because of what it does not do.  It does not increase vital signs and does not cause a redistribution of  blood in the body.   The body receives more oxygen, nutrients, enzymes, hormones and antibodies where it needs them more quickly.  Carbon dioxide and byproducts of cellular activity are removed and transported to the filtering organs more quickly.



Because nothing says risk reduction like a fresh coat of nail polish

jm family manicures


 Another such victory and we are ruined

We were delighted to see a program that works!  AHIP reported on that rarity of rarities, a wellness “success.”

AHIP obesity

So we clicked through on this success to the headline, and discovered the “reduction in obesity burden” that these companies “reaped.”

obesity study

How much “success” did these companies “reap“?  Well, before we tell you, we should caution that vendors never track non-participants and dropouts.  So the bad news is, these big weight loss “successes” that vendors “reap” are always way overstated.

The good news is, this is not that situation.  The minority that stuck it out and completed the program “reaped” a weight loss of:  1.3 pounds.  (The decimal is in the right place.)  This yielded a BMI reduction of:  0.2. (Ditto.)    This is even a worse performance than Shape-Up “reaped” in their program that we chronicled.

You could reap that much success simply by fasting the day of the weigh-in until you “reap” your incentive check.

Not only is 144,000 people not “1 out of 19 people in the United States”.  144,000 is barely 1 out of 19 people in greater Cleveland.

cleveland clinic

colon cancer

And yet these are the same people who wiped out polio.

The CDC is squeezing 20% of “youths” into the top five percentiles.

cdc obesity

This isn’t possible no matter how much they weigh.


Treating gum disease reduced “annual medical costs” for “patients who are pregnant.” (Those patients must be very busy.)

annual savings on pregnant women

Trestletree wins two awards:

  1. Most dedicated workforce (the 300% reduction in absenteeism means that not only do employees never miss a day of work but also they work weekends without even punching the clock), and
  2. Best recycling of fortune cookies (they “celebrate life as a mosaic, rich with messiness, meaning and texture”).

They also “exist to pursue health transformation in people,” which is a darn shame because my dog could stand to lose a few pounds.


Note: for the record they did ditch this slide after I explained to them that they shouldn’t have played hookey the day their teacher taught math.

That’s the good news.  The bad news is, if you read the whole thing you’ll see they also played hookey the day their teacher taught English.


Bobby McFerrin meets wellness:  Health Hero appoints a “Chief Happy Officer” 

We are Health Hero and our corporate wellness programs give back a money-back guaranteed ROI of $4 to $16 per $1 spent within 6 months, but more importantly: lives get transformed, habits change, and employee health improves. We also have the best service and we are the lowest price ( If you are the appropriate person to speak with, what does your calendar look like? If not, who do you recommend I talk to?

Yours in Health,
Anthony Diaz
Chief Happy Officer
Health Hero

Hey, Wellnet, Sesame Street called.  They found your missing “5.0.”  Count Count also offered to teach you how to draw a graph.  

wellnet graph

And their father’s still perfecting ways of making sealing wax.    

cerner cholesterol

Regardless of Cerner’s antediluvian advice offered by their HRA, it is perfectly OK to consume cholesterol in your diet, as has been known for about 30 years.

The CDC is shocked, shocked, to find that mortality is going on in here! 

cdc statistic

Um, what are we supposed to die of instead?  Many countries would brag about that statistic.  It’s called “civilization.”

Vivify Health’s Principal Investigator Might Be a More Credible Principal Investigator If He Could Spell “Principal Investigator.”  We’re just sayin’…

vivify principal investigator

Propeller Health’s Principal Investigator Might Be a More Credible Principal Investigator for Propeller Health If He Could Spell “Propeller Health.”   We’re just sayin’…


Wellness Innovations might be a more credible wellness vendor if they could spell “wellness vendor.”  We’re just sayin’…

wellness innovations

Wanna know who does not “bring exceptional value”?  Wellness Innovations’ copy editor…


…Who is apparently moonlighting for Pyrimed…



…Who is apparently moonlighting for Heath Fairs Direct…

health fair direct impingement

Anyone who can decipher the word “impinge” in any of Health Fairs Direct’s uses of the word wins a free thesaurus.  Decipher it in all three places and you get a free decoder ring.


...who apparently got lured back to Wellness Innovations to measure outcomes:

corporate wellness magazine

Make sure to link through and read the other “key take-away’s”





Star Wellness’s Sales Pitch:  Our Needles Aren’t As Dirty As Other Vendors’

star wellnessneedles

Sal, Wyoming’s Not a Country.

Health Fair [sic] Direct, Connecticut’s not a city

health fair direct CT is not a city

And, Vivify, pneumonia’s not a chronic disease…

vivify penumonia

…which is why you never hear anyone say: “I was diagnosed with pneumonia a few years ago, but I’m staying on top of it.”

Health Fair [sic] Direct may not know Connecticut is a state, but no one can accuse them of not busting their S

health fair direct headquarter

…and they also want to make sure we remember that corporations are people too

health fair direct corporations

The Definition of a “Healthy Employee” Is One Who Has Not Been Diagnosed

Feeling fine today?  Alas, you better get your affairs in order, bid your loved ones adieu, and watch the shows you’ve DVR-ed.  Why? Because, dodo-brain, feeling fine means you have:

compass health title I feel fine syndrome

You are “walking around without a clue that [you have] a debilitating or terminal condition.”  According to this company (which at this point, having been “outed” by us, had the good sense to take this off their website…but not until we captured a screen shot), the major symptom of I Feel Fine Syndrome is:  not having symptoms.

We’ll let them take it from here, to display not only their epidemiological prowess but also, this being the wellness industry, their grammar and spelling prowess as well:

compass health screen shot2

We must confess we learned a lot from this.  We had not realized that employers’ concerns about employees feeling fine had their roots in ancient history.  But there it is, right in the opening words:  these concerns date back “millenia” [sic], when employers failed to get their employees tested for “percolating” conditions before throwing them to the lions.

To summarize, the bad news is that feeling fine may be hazardous to your health.  The good news is that your ICU bed may not need a DNR notice anytime soon because elsewhere these folks says it “has programs and solutions to help your employees overcome their I Feel Fine Syndrome.”  And it is “very likely” these programs and solutions can “completely cure the problem…forever in our bodies.”

And not a moment too soon, as far as we’re concerned, because the clock is ticking: we’re never felt better in our lives.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is, it sounds like we need to start contributing more to our 401K’s.

You may think you’re misreading this due to the small print, but you’re not.  It really does say “all data bench marked by the biophotonic antioxidant health scanner.”

biophotonic scanner



goofus and gallant



cartoon dilbert wellness monitoring

dilbert wellness

dilbert stress

 dilbert fixed typo

new yorker wellness

Hate these clippings?  You’ll despise our book, Surviving Workplace Wellness, as it delves into the wacky world of wellness, where vendors push programs designed to make employees happy whether they like it or not.


  1. Doug Dame says:

    The last one, Medical/Rx paid claims, $463 thousand, has to be a serious contender for the most deceptive chart ever produced.

    And the “missing 5.0” is the least of it. Amateurs who want to exploit the human mind’s natural tendency to compare the size of the two columns …(wow, it’s only half as much!!!) …. start the y-axis somewhere way above zero. But we’re getting a little smarter, and many people now know to look for that tell-tale hint that the “data presentation” (so to speak) is rigged.

    This chart reassuringly shows a zero, but the y-axis scale is demonically non-linear and totally non-standard. The top five tickmarks cover from $6.4m to $6.0m, or $0.4m. The lower 5 tickmarks (including the x-axis@0), which just going by tickmarks appear to be the same, in fact includes the range from $0 to $4.0m. Compared to the upper part of the axis, that’s compressed to 1/10th of the perceptual scale it should have.

    So what the eyeball sees as approximately a 50% savings per the vertical bars instead computes out to a somewhat more modest 7% savings when one does the simple calculation. And that’s if you believe the numbers themselves, which would require significant bravery at this point.

    Wish it was a LOT harder for you guys to keep finding these things, but sadly it’s a target-rich environment. Buyer beware.


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      Hi Doug, yes, so many scoundrels to expose, so little space on the internet. You’re absolutely right about the graph, of course. And look at Cigna’s entry and how they played with their visual display. BTW, love that “target-rich environment” line.


  2. VMR says:

    So funny and so much hype!!!! We need to find the ” magic ” pill that will make us all healthy, slim and beautiful!


  3. akp2008 says:

    With two kids in school, I am reading a great deal about what’s lacking in our educational system and the proposed 21st century skills. Critical thinking and analyzing data are skills identified by employers as being deficient in college grads but needed in the workplace. These examples only prove that point.


  4. minnesotamom says:

    You know what’s an even bigger joke? here’s Yelp and Google reviews are the same Redbrick. Do them!


  5. Samiam says:

    These are the kind of idiots who give idiots a bad name. Congratulations on the funniest blog post in all of healthcare, but you gotta give a major assist to these vendors. As Doug says in his comment, wellness is truly a target-rich environment.


  6. Marissa says:

    Agreed on both counts–a “target rich environment” and without a doubt the funniest thing in all of healthcare.


  7. Mitch says:

    I too like the target-rich environment comment above. This may be my last post, as for many years I have been suffering from I Feel Fine syndrome. Hope I can struggle through the day.


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      hmmm…have you thought about taking up smoking, eating more transfats and giving up exercise? Then you’ll feel better because you won’t feel fine.


  8. Valerie says:

    If the White House saw this they wouldn’t think it was so funny. This whole thing was their idea and now we, the employees, are paying the price. The program at my company is an even bigger joke that this posting except that some of our overwieght colleagues are seriously getting obsessed with this and losing focus. I end up picking up the slack.


  9. DonaldO says:

    Vivify, myocardial infarction isn’t a chronic disease either. Is this company for real? How stupid can everybody be and still walk upright?


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      Welcome to wellness, my friend. What you see is what you get. And to think Professor Baicker still says these people could save us billions.


  10. […] this is an industry prone to gaffes. They Said What? lists forty-five vendors who apparently can’t add or subtract, can’t construct a coherent sentence and in one case didn’t even spell the name of its […]


  11. […] this is an industry prone to gaffes. They Said What? lists forty-five vendors who apparently can’t add or subtract, can’t construct a coherent sentence and in one case didn’t even spell the name of its […]


  12. […] this is an industry prone to gaffes. They Said What? lists forty-five vendors who apparently can’t add or subtract, can’t construct a coherent sentence and, in one case, didn’t even spell the name of […]


  13. […]   They Said What?, hosted by the inimitable Al Lewis and Vik Khanna. They go about exploding one healthcare myth after another, but do so with appropriate satire, hilarious quotes, and self-immolating vendor screenshots. I can’t go to this site without learning valuable information and having a good laugh. Who doesn’t like a good satire? Here is a link to They Said What?. My advice: start with “This is your brain on wellness.” […]


  14. […] this is an industry prone to gaffes. They Said What? lists forty-five vendors who apparently can’t add or subtract, can’t construct a coherent sentence and, in one case, didn’t even spell the name of […]


  15. I want my free decoder ring: All it took was a dictionary or in this case

    verb (used without object), impinged, impinging.
    to make an impression; have an effect or impact (usually followed by on or upon):
    to impinge upon the imagination; social pressures that impinge upon one’s daily life.

    So it looks like Health Fairs Direct is saying that when an employee gets a negative test result that negative result can “Make An Impression” or “Have An Effect or Impact” on the employee’s viewpoint of their state of health.

    Pretty straight forward if you know how to use a dictionary.


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      OK, you got it. The ring is yours.

      PS The year I took the SATs, there was a mistake in the math section, exposed later, causing me to get “only” 790. So I think I get my decoder ring back…

      PPS This would only make sense to someone (me) who can see the email of the commenter. I don’t want to publish it without his permission, but he works at the organization which writes the SATs.


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