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“good” made me feel bad

August 4, 2009

in health communication,wellness


last night’s workout involved huffing and puffing on the elliptical while reading good. though the cover design caught my eye, it was the content that prompted me to pick it up. i just knew it was going to help me be more environmentally aware. it’s a change i’ve thought about and am ready to make—i simply need some ideas and support to begin. woo-hoo!

the first article was on why we’re running out of water. i read every word. the second article discussed various contaminants in our tap water and what, if anything, we can do about them. i read about half of it, got scared, and flipped to the next article—only the text beside the images with this one. it was downhill from there, ’til i eventually sought relief in a trashy, feel-good mag.

it’s not that i don’t appreciate what good is telling me. or that i think it won’t help me. it’s that the onslaught of difficult information left me feeling that change was too big—too hard. stuck in inertia, i am.

this is how employees react to those frightening statistics about their deadly lifestyle habits. they tune out and return to smoking, eating fast food, and slacking on the exercise, generally giving up because of a very natural reaction, “did you see those statistics? i’m screwed!”

awareness is not always the problem. speak to many of your employees and you’ll find they already know they need to change what they’re doing. more often it’s time, money, child care, proximity to bad and access to good, and behavior-related factors like getting up the gumption, creating a supportive environment, and—let’s be honest—experiencing a life-altering episode that makes changing behavior critical.

while fear-based approaches can work under the right conditions, i lean toward a more encouraging approach, based on where a person is in the stages of change. sounds good, and i know what you’re thinking: how does one provide a customized solution to 20k, 30k, and more employees, not to mention their dependents? it’s not as audacious as it sounds. here are a few things i’m going to chew on through upcoming posts (alternating with non-wellness-related posts for those not so intrigued with the subject):

  • are you focusing on the programs and the people that’ll make a difference?
  • are you and your external partners working together or at cross purposes?
  • are you making it easy for your employees and their covered family members to find information and get help?
  • are you targeting your message?
  • are you offering a supportive environment?

if you want to add to the list, please do! or join me in exploring the above.


Leave a Comment

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Bednar August 4, 2009 at 12:40 pm

FANTASTIC post, Fran. totally get what you mean. what also can get frustrating, I think, for employees who need to heed the health message is that they frequently hear conflicting advice and don't know what to do (e.g., eat only natural foods vs. eat low-fat, low-calorie).

i can't wait to read more about each of the topics you've outlined. i'd also love to hear your thoughts on the importance of providing programs PERCEIVED as respected and reliable by employees — and how can you help give the programs the proper endorsement w/out being seen as having a conflict of interest.


fran August 4, 2009 at 7:47 pm

hey, mark.

the post on creating a supportive environment will include my thoughts on peer-to-peer communications. these testimonials educate others and market programs in a far more credible way than most corporate literature. will that hit on what you’re interested in?

thanks for commenting, f


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