Posts Tagged ‘health engagement’

The Healthy Mobilization of Mobile

Last February, we wrote a blog piece about the diminishment of the digital divide – the former separation of the web enabled have and have-nots. One year later, the divide isn’t just diminished – it’s practically invisible.

Consider the newly released web traffic study cited by Walker Sands:

  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of web visits are generated by mobile devices (a one year increase of 84% and a 283% increase in less than two years.)

1.15.13The study concludes: “Mobile is no longer an option, but a necessity. Companies must develop a user-friendly mobile site to keep pace with traffic that consistently doubles year-over-year.”

The ever-increasing trend of a mobile-connected public was the impetus behind RedBrick Health’s mobilization development across our platform and our healthy behavior solutions. We realized, early on,  helping individuals make lasting healthy behavior changes requires the availability of our solution at the consumer’s fingertips in the places they make the majority of health behavior decisions – at the gym, at the grocery store and restaurant, on the road, in their homes, neighborhoods and back yards.  This focus remains in the forefront of our ongoing design development – connecting with people where they are.

Employers should no longer assume employee populations who do not have web access at work also lack it outside of work.  Thanks, mostly, to the continued avalanche of affordable smart phone and tablet options, the barrier to web access is significantly reduced. Whereas the more expensive home computer options are lagging in sales, the comparative “bargain bin” options of web-enabled hand-held devices are soaring.  And soaring around the globe. As Bill Clinton noted at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show, smart phones are providing an inexpensive alternative, even in the most impoverished countries, for individuals to gain access to the information super highway and all it entails – banking services, communications, social media and the rest.

The groundswell of web connectivity across socio-economic levels provides significant new opportunity to connect individuals with information and helpful solutions within their daily lives. And the fact more and more consumers aren’t just securing access to the world-wide web but can also access it away from their desk chairs and couches – all the better. More access, more movement – two trends we highly endorse.

The High Price of Unhealthy Behavior

DobroHIBOne fourth of the dollars and cents employers and their employees are spending on healthcare is tied to unhealthy behavior.  That’s the conclusion an exhaustive study published in the November issue of Health Affairs concludes – ten modifiable behaviors consume 22% of all employer/employee costs. Obesity and inactivity, by themselves, lead the bad behavior pack and drive 13% of all costs.

The study, conducted from 2005-2009, was comprised of over 90,000 workers from a variety of industries, regions and wage scales. Using data from health risk assessments (HRAs), it classified study participants into either ‘high-risk’ or ‘low-risk’ categories and then compared the associated healthcare costs for each risk factor between the two groups.

The study’s summation of the financial impact by risk type includes:

HealthRiskEffect

When factoring in the 5-7% annual healthcare cost inflation since 2009, total cost burden across all ten risk factors in 2013 would rise from $887 to $1,131 per person per year.

The findings from this study demonstrate the significant opportunity employers can realize to lower their health care expenditures. While certain risk factors have a greater individual affect on health care expenditures (i.e. depression and high blood glucose), the high relative prevalence of obesity and physical inactivity create an even wider opportunity for improvement and resulting financial rewards. (Note: In this study, those classified as high risk in obesity had a BMI over 30 and those classified as high risk in physical inactivity reported exercising less than three days a week.)

For years, employers have focused on addressing chronic conditions as the shortest, most viable path to healthcare cost control.  This study illuminates a divergent reality and emerging trend – helping employees shed pounds and hit the gym may provide an even greater net effect on the bottom line.  It’s also the one shot we may have of avoiding the even higher prevalence chronic condition rates on the other side of these morphing (and costly) lifestyle risks.

- Jeff Dobro, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, RedBrick Health

Reduced Healthcare Trend. Energy Drinks & Illness? Dangers of Being Comfortable with Weight Gain

Dollar SignPositive News for Healthcare Cost Trend
Employee Benefit News highlights the National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, a survey conducted annually by Mercer, which notes that healthcare inflation has hit a 15-year low nationwide. The trend is due, in large part, to companies adopting consumer-directed health plans and further embracing the benefits of wellness programs like those offered by RedBrick Health.

ForkPay Attention, Energy Drink Consumer
The Los Angeles Times highlights a Food and Drug Administration report possibly linking popular energy drinks to an increasing number of acute illnesses and deaths. While the beverages themselves have not been conclusively linked to illness and death, a growing list of similar reports suggests caution when using energy shots or energy drinks.

GraphIf At First You Don’t Succeed…Well…Just Change the Definition of Success
According to this Gallup poll Americans are getting comfortable with their heavier weights. So much so that the definition of our perceived “ideal weight” has increased about 10% since 1991. Unfortunately, weight-related illness and disease tends to disagree.

High Returns for Wellness Investment – Employers, Take Note

The bottom line.  It’s what we all want to know.  And the evaluation of a successful health and wellness program is no exception.  Employers want to know – how much is it going to cost and how much of our investment will we get back?

Realizing the significance of the bottom line, RedBrick Health is thrilled at the results of a just completed Financial Impact Study proving our program delivers a 3.8 to 1 return on investment for our clients in just two years.  In hard dollars, our solution generates $612 in total per participant savings per year ($325 health care cost reductions and $287 in workplace productivity savings) – a 3.8 dollar return for every one dollar invested.  And this is only the financial picture of having a healthier, more productive, more engaged workforce.

The study results are noteworthy in two respects:

1)   The study was conducted across the company’s book-of-business, representing a wide range of industries, program designs and incentive structures.

2)    The data shows results achieved in two years, which is faster than many published ROI studies in the health and wellness category.

The effect of RedBrick Health program participation on health care expenditures is quantified through pre-post participant versus comparison group design using individual level data on health care expenditures. The effect of RedBrick Health program participation on health related productivity loss (HRPL) is estimated using the aggregate health index score from the health assessment and its correlation with HRPL.

To download the complete Financial Impact of RedBrick Health Study, go to www.redbrickhealth.com/whitepaper

Water Conservation Lessons for Healthcare

A friend of mine was telling me all about his new water bill. He lives in a township that historically assessed each household a uniform, cross-community water utility charge. The size of your house, yard, family, whether or not you owned a swimming pool or an exotic fish collection – none of it factored into the assessment. The entire community water tab was divvied evenly residence by residence.

Now things are different. The township spent the winter installing water meters into every residence. They can now bill individual home owners for the actual amount of water their household consumes. A common practice elsewhere and no different from the construct for how they pay for their other utilities, but this community initially reacted to the change with concern. Many were worried their new water bills would spike. And many did.

Within a week of mailing out the new metered water bills, those with hefty increases staggered into the township office to complain. These conversations began, of course, with a fair amount of hyperbole, statements of aquatic-tempered financial ruin and the prospect of housing un-bathed family members to avoid it. But the individuals complaining the loudest were also the ones who confessed they were running eight zone yard irrigation systems to keep their sod emerald green enough to match the gates of Oz – inflating their neighbors’ previous water tolls with as much vigor as they were dousing the sewer grates with run-off.

The next result was easier to swallow…for everyone – consumption changes resulting in a 20% aquifer draw reduction in the first 6 months alone. Consumers now armed with their actual usage information began using (and most likely wasting) less and less water. This was welcome relief to a community grappling with aquifer-reliant lake levels at record lows and the related recreation, tourism and property value declines. Lake levels are gradually moving toward their normal levels, despite even a slight period of area drought.

I offer up this scintillating tale of community water consumption because it provides an immediate parallel to the same perennial challenge employers face reigning in their healthcare overspending. Until we tether each individual’s health behavior pattern to their overall cost of care, the financial aquifer of the employer and health status of the employee remain imperiled.

When provided with personalized information and support to make healthier choices, individuals react positively. They also become appreciative of the opportunity to reduce their own healthcare costs and satisfied with resulting health improvements. The “all you can eat healthcare buffet” of employer sponsored health is an archaic framework that leaves our workers bloated and budgets belly up. A healthier approach is a behavior-based finance model – one that marries health engagement to the individual cost of care, and rewards employees for making healthier choices all of us benefit by.

The proverbial spigot of health care overspend is within reach. It’s up to us to turn it.

- Gregg Waldon, CFO, RedBrick Health

Health Innovation Blog and Superstorm Sandy

Red Cross Disaster Responder Dave Glad

Our purpose at the Health Innovation Blog is to spread awareness of innovations that advance personal and population health and discuss new approaches to old problems for getting and keeping people healthy and productive. But perhaps nothing is more vital to personal and population health than the physical safety of ourselves, our families, and our communities, and our emotional well-being in the face of a disaster. Right now, millions of people are facing serious challenges – directly or indirectly – as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Millions of others are wondering what they can do to help. So we tapped the experiences of a RedBrick Health employee and Health Innovation Blog contributor, Dave Glad, who also serves in a leadership capacity in Red Cross Disaster Response and has helped respond to hundreds of disasters.

HIB: What can you tell us about the effects of disasters like Sandy?  

DG: Without a doubt, there are two things that people are thinking right now no matter how prepared they are for these situations.

“I know these things happen, but I never thought it would happen to me,” and “I want to help, but I don’t know how.”  I probably hear the first statement every single time I’m at a disaster response.

HIB: So what do you recommend to those people?

DG: The first thing I like to let people know is that help is available and the Red Cross is a great starting point. Ideally, you can locate your local Red Cross chapter phone number and start there. But anyone, at any time, can contact 1-800-RED-CROSS and get started. If they can, they should log onto redcross.org where they can enter their specific Zip code and receive localized instructions.

Emotional well-being is also key. I always tell people, “This is a tremendous challenge, but you don’t need to solve everything immediately.”  You can comfort your friends and family by reminding them that recovery is a long-term process.

HIB: People who weren’t in the path of the storm are also feeling sort of helpless.

DG: Exactly! That’s how I got started with my Red Cross volunteering, when a local apartment building burned to the ground on Christmas Eve. I wanted so badly to help but didn’t know how.

The easy answer is volunteer for the next one. We need people, but I know that volunteering is a huge commitment.

Realistically, although it may not “feel as satisfying”, the biggest way to help is to log onto www.redcross.org and make a monetary donation. Everything Red Cross does is made possible through the generosity of the public.

If you can’t contribute financially, consider donating blood which continues to be desperately needed. The Red Cross Blood Services can direct you to a local donation resource, or there are several other organizations in every local area.

HIB: What if neither is possible?

DG: It’s easy. Go to http://www.redcross.org and click on “Prepare”

Spend 10 minutes reading how to prepare for a disaster. Think about what you would do if a fast-moving fire, tornado, or flood was about to claim your home. Think about what you need to have every day – prescriptions, glasses, ID, extra cash, cell phone charger, a copy of your car keys…and of course food, water, and extra clothes. If you have kids, talk to them about how to react.

Believe me, it makes all the difference in the world. I spend more time than I care to standing in the rain or snow, in the middle of the night, with a family that suddenly has nothing but the clothes they happened to be wearing at the time, and whatever they were able to grab on the way out of their burning home. Mentally put yourself in that position and go from there.

Having the knowledge that you’re prepared, or that you can help your neighbors is powerful and can help take the edge off what many of us are feeling – that we wish we could be lending a hand to the people affected by Sandy.

HIB: Thank you for this!

DG: My pleasure and I hope the people on the East Coast know we support them and are hoping they can get past this as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Exercise Over Brain Games in Keeping Minds Sharp. Advantages of Quitting Smoking. Active Workplace Design to Drive Exercise

Exercise Trumps Brain Games in Keeping Our Minds Intact
It turns out that musclehead who kicked sand in the nerd’s face was really just sending him a positive health message. Well…if you follow researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland  who find that exercise has more benefit than traditional “mental stimulating activities” on countering the effects of age on our brains.

Women Who Give Up Smoking Extend Lives by 10 Years
“Quitting smoking works. And the sooner, the better.”  It’s a theme that warrants repeating – this time by Rachel Huxley, a University of Minnesota professor, in reaction to a study of more than one million women smokers in the United Kingdom.

Smoking Bans Drive Down Heart Attack Rates
And speaking of smoking, the Los Angeles Times highlighted a recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association that shows a reduction in heart attacks in locations where public smoking bans have been enacted. Paired with employer support to quit in the form of incentives, supportive coaching and benefits, our communities are moving in the right direction.

Active Design in Offices Gets Workers to Move
The next weapon in the arsenal to defeat obesity may be….architecture??  Workplace configuration – from location of shared devices to prominently featuring stairs, outdoor spaces, and other physical features – increases an individual’s ability to form habits and equates to positive behavior change.

The UnBEARable Truth: Will Shock Value Change Consumption Habits?

If you were looking to create a succesful video, there is a formula that almost always guarantees success. Create an animated film featuring cute and cuddly animals (in this case, polar bears), combine with a catchy theme song sung by a chart-topping musician (enter Jason Mraz) and top off with the direction of an industry heavyweight (advertising superstar Alex Bogusky). Only this isn’t the latest feature film from Hollywood. It is instead a stark protest against the evils of sugar, specifically the soda industry.


This video should prove to be an interesting study on the importance of how health-related information is delivered to today’s consumers. It is safe to say that nearly all consumers know the negative impact consuming large amounts of sugar in their diet can have on their health. Yet sugar and soda are being consumed at record levels. This shouldn’t be surprising. Humans are irrational beings. Just because we know we shouldn’t do something doesn’t mean we won’t do it.

To get someone to change his or her behavior, sufficient motivation must be combined with a trigger that sparks you to take action. Maybe the visual of a chainsaw chopping off a polar bear’s paw might be what it takes to convince a person to put the soda back on the shelf and pick up a bottle of water instead. Maybe not. What we do know is that currently the majority of Americans have not been able to break their habit of overconsumption of soda and other sugary drinks.

As Jason Mraz sings, “The power’s in your hands.” It’s up to each us to decide if that can of soda really makes us that much happier. Will this video make you more likely to rethink your consumption habits? Is its shock value needed, a la the anti-smoking campaigns of recent memory, to truly get the message across? Only time will tell, but we can all probably agree that something needs to be done to help reverse the emerging obesity epidemic facing our country. Maybe instead we should just focus on how much fun drinking water can be.

America’s Future: Move It or Lose It

For the first time in history, children today are projected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. 

Physical inactivity is linked to hundreds of billions of dollars in health care costs as well as more premature deaths worldwide (5.5 million annually) than smoking.

Young people are 32 percent less active than their parents and grandparents, and by 2030, that number will be closer to 50 percent.

Though they may sound like scare tactics or headlines for shock value, these are just a few of the simple facts – some of which are tremendously sobering – that Nike, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education present as a “call to action” to individuals, corporations, and public and private institutions here and abroad.

The “Designed to Move” report recently published by those organizations presents a consolidated wealth of evidence that points to an urgent need for action to address an increasingly sedentary society – a phenomenon that starts with children and ends up impacting workplace productivity and success.

Consider this:

A trend of inactivity in children of industrialized nations, led by the United States, has created almost epidemic impacts on test scores, self-confidence, mental health, school attendance, and even future earning potential. This has, and will continue to translate into increased workplace absenteeism, escalating health care costs, and losses in productivity.

Designed to Move isn’t based on shallow theory or emerging studies. The 128-page report has nine pages of citations (and that’s small print) and the input of more than 70 global experts. Central to the report is the notion that lifelong commitment to physical activity is cultivated in the first 10 years of a child’s life. And that commitment translates to our economic and national vitality.

While the challenges presented by Designed to Move may seem daunting, the report offers hope that a world that stops moving is not a foregone conclusion.

The report’s action plan emphasizes the importance of institutional role models – including corporations – and collaborations to create a social environment where physical activity, play, and sports in everyday life are valued. The report includes specific “asks”  – to create early positive experiences for children in sports and physical activity, and for people of all ages to integrate physical activity into everyday life.

Besides a role as supporter, companies and their leaders can help reverse the trend directly through corporate wellness initiatives, and the Designed to Move report provides a number of applicable strategy suggestions. These include designing office spaces with visible, appealing, functional stairs and motivational signage; proving facilities that support physical activity such as fitness centers, lockers, showers, bicycle maps, and publishing walking/running routes and distances; and, designing and implementing corporate policies that encourage, incentivize and celebrate activities such as commuting.

We recommend taking a look at the Designed to Move report and accepting the call to action. We’re here to help.

Organic Foods: There Are No Easy Answers

When Stanford University recently published a study examining the nutritional advantages of organic foods – or possible lack thereof – the media and blogosphere lit up with a firestorm of bold proclamations.

“Organic Food No More Nutritious than Non-Organic Study Finds”
“Stanford Study Underscores Benefits of Organic Foods Beyond Nutrition”
“Debunking the Debunkers of Organic Foods”

As the press ran with the study and the subsequent reactions, one thing became clear: It achieved little clarity as it pertains to what’s best for the consumer.

But maybe that’s a good thing. The passionate confusion over what the study actually determined (focusing on negligible differences in nutrient content) underscored that well-being – be it through nutrition, exercise, the environment in which we live, and many other critical aspects of our lives – is a broad spectrum. And one that requires constant thought, learning, and fine-tuning in a series of small steps.

Nora Pouillon knows a thing or two about organic foods. She’s recognized as an industry thought leader as well as a tireless champion for healthy living through food, environmental stewardship, narrowing the gap between farm to consumer, and sustainability. She had a strong voice in response to the study, and argued passionately on the organic side of the discussion.

Ms. Pouillon was generous to lend her thoughts to the Health Innovation Blog and its followers. Besides articulating her position well, she reinforces the importance of understanding – and improving – health through a holistic view and as an ongoing journey.

“In reporting the study, the media used the words ‘healthy’ and ‘nutritious’ as if they were interchangeable. If a vegetable is ‘healthier’ because it has more vitamins in it, as you might list them on a package, then no, organics don’t necessarily contain ‘significantly’ more nutrients. But the nutritional content of a piece of produce isn’t what makes it ‘healthy.’

‘Healthy’ means that we aren’t spraying toxic chemicals on the food we eat; we aren’t dousing agricultural workers with those poisons; and we aren’t depleting the earth with chemicals. ‘Healthy’ means that we are nourishing the soil with compost; we’re keeping the water clean; we’re preserving the earth for future generations; and we are treating nature and our bodies with respect, not reckless disregard. ‘Health’ means foods that are picked ripe and bursting with flavor, that are so delicious that children and adults alike will want to eat their fruits and vegetables. And more fruits and vegetables, we do know, means better health.”

In other words, the Stanford Study was no “aha” health-defining moment. Rather its failure to definitively answer the question of “are organics good for us?” underscored the necessity of individuals using tools and educational resources at hand to think, to learn, and to see beyond a word on a package label or a news headline and to make informed choices, one at a time.

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