Posts Tagged ‘overweight’

Getting Up Offa That Thing – Healthy Behavior Change in a 30 Second Super Bowl Ad

What’s more entertaining – the actual football game being chiseled into the Astro turf in twenty-second intervals or the thirty-second ad spots stitched between ref whistles? It’s the annual Super Bowl question. Yesterday’s game was no exception. Great game, but also engaging commercials. One, in particular, caught our eye.

The Cliff Notes version of this clever ad: chunky dog sees a racy new Volkswagen Beetle speed through the neighborhood. Dog jumps to chase it but, in Winnie the Pooh fashion, his girth prevents him from getting through the doggie door. Dog takes a good, hard look in the mirror and embarks on lifestyle transformation – swimming, climbing stairs, hitting the treadmill, restraining himself from the taunt of hot dog table scraps. When winter turns to Spring, formerly chunky dog has the form and stamina to not only get his hips through the doggie door, but also race alongside the zippy red VW when it passes his home. Success.

What we love about this ad is that it pretty much nails the key points of healthy behavior change in one compressed and entertaining visage. (The R&B backbeat: “Get Up Offa that Thing” preached by the Godfather of Soul helps, as well.) The main components of health engagement are nicely represented – a timely trigger, personal motivation and reward stimulation, goal setting, incremental lifestyle and ability adjustment, positive reinforcement and healthy outcomes and goal attainment.

We’re aware the commercial’s goal is to sell cars, not health engagement. But the health message is obviously closer to our hearts, so we are instant fans. Wouldn’t it be great if small reminders like these motivated all of us to Get Up Offa whatever it is preventing us from obtaining our own personal red VW speeding by?

Oh, and the football game was good, too. In case you missed it, Giants won.

Time for a New Mirror

Remember the Billy Crystal line – it’s better to look good than to feel good?  The majority of Americans are currently ascribing to a variation of the same Fernando Lamas-inspired logic – it’s better to believe you are healthy than to be healthy.

How skewed is perception from reality?  In a word – skewed.

According to a newly released CDC report, 90% of Americans rate their health as good to excellent – a self measurement indicator in direct conflict with record rates of obesity (28.2%) and diabetes (8.4%).  Columbia University Medical Center just released comprehensive research finding overweight and obese people routinely underestimate their actual weight and related health risks.  According to the research (focused on obese parents and their children):

  • 82% of obese mothers and 43% of overweight mothers underestimate their weight
  • 86% of overweight or obese children underestimate their weight
  • 48% of mothers of obese or overweight children indicate their children’s weight is normal

The good news is perception is less distorted when it comes to individual responsibility – 93% of adults believe they are individually responsible for their health (according to a statewide Pennsylvania poll.)  The issue, though, is action.  The same poll finds 33% of these same adults do not exercise and 39% exercise less than an hour a week.  In short – individuals know they are responsible for their own health…but few are motivated to take action.

If it isn’t already obvious, most individuals need a healthy dose of reality.  They lack baseline health and risk data – the type of individually relevant information they can easily receive by participating in a well promoted health assessment and biometric screening.

And then – motivation.  The first hurdle, getting individuals to accept responsibility for their own health is largely already cleared.  But they obviously need a nudge past it – influential incentives, engaging consumer experience and personalized, supportive coaching options have proven highly effective in moving the perception of health to reality.

Slaying the Giant – As the Giant Grows Bigger

The pandemic is official.  Epidemiologists are even predicting it won’t be long before unhealthy weight rivals tobacco use as the world’s leading cause of preventable premature death.  If you have any doubt of the severity of the crisis, consider:

  • Globally, 1.3 billion adults and more than 42 million children are overweight or obese
  • Almost half of all US adults are obese
  • Risk of death increases by almost one-third for every five point rise in body mass index (BMI)
  • In the US, every point of BMI above 30 adds $300 in per capita annual medical cost (with additional heightened absenteeism and worker productivity costs)
  • Diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, esophageal, colorectal, breast and endometrial cancer and many other illnesses are directly tied to excess weight

Can the pandemic be reversed?  The McKinsey Quarterly recently published an in-depth analysis of over 1,000 studies from the last decade, culling out the approaches most successful in helping stem the spiking rates of unhealthy weight.  In a sea of medical management, commercial weight loss programs, community-based promotion efforts, two primary findings lift to the surface:

  1. “Single intervention programs, such as low-calorie diets and exercise regimens generally produce only modest weight loss.  Better results are obtained where several interventions are used together.”
  2. “The best results are achieved with multi-pronged programs that involve the entire community.”

The report goes on to detail specific key actions governments, health systems and other constituents can embrace to gain traction against the pandemic.  For employers, specifically, they advocate “incentives to encourage” innovative program participation, nutritional counseling, community-wide initiatives and other incentivized solutions.
 No question the obesity pandemic (and the skyrocketing costs that ride its shoulders) is a foe staring employers head on.  Multi-pronged, sustained approaches, community (and social) based initiatives and incentivized healthy activities sound like effective tools to us.  We also know they work.

It’s Not Just the Biggest that Might be Losers

This likely doesn’t come as welcome news smack dab between holiday feastings, but the latest research  indicates it’s not just the obese at higher risk to weight-related disease and/or premature death – even modestly overweight individuals are.

Published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, research comprised of 1.5 million study subjects concludes that healthy adults even slightly overweight were 13% more likely to die during the time they were in the study (in comparison to similar individuals whose weight was in an ideal range.)  The risk, of course, rises much higher the additional pounds we carry.  Those in the obese category have increased risks 44-88% higher than healthy weight adults – significantly increased prevalence of heart disease, stroke and cancer.  And with these increased risks comes increased costs – the CDC estimates obese individuals incur, on average, $1,400 higher annual medical costs over healthy weight individuals.  Those with diabetes incur twice the medical costs of their healthy weight counterparts.

But the higher cost alarms related to the obesity epidemic has had widespread press lately.  What’s compelling about this research newly published in the NEJM is news that it debunks a popular theory that “a few extra pounds” aren’t much to worry about.   They are.  A 13% increased morbidity risk for modestly overweight individuals is significant.  It provides even more fuel for employers hoping to stem the downstream costs of unhealthy lifestyle choices.


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