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wellness digest–week of january 17

January 24, 2011

in wellness digest

a week’s roundup of articles that intrigued, informed, inspired or irritated.

1. wal-mart pledges to promote healthier foods

when walmart talks, people tend to listen. their size is nothing if not commanding. this week, alongside michelle obama, they announced their intention to reduce sodium and sugar in their private-label products over the next five years, and invited others to join them.

“Wal-Mart said it plans to highlight reformulated foods that meet its goals with a special label. In addition, the company said it would make an effort to save customers $1 billion a year by reducing prices on fruits and vegetables. Wal-Mart said it planned to lower the fruit and vegetable prices by ongoing improvements to its supply chain, not further squeezing suppliers to lower prices for Wal-Mart.”

marion nestle, noted professor of nutrition, talks with NPR about this announcement here.

2. packing on the pounds blamed on…weight for it…walmart

not a moment too soon, walmart’s above announcement about improving their products. this article summarizes a soon-to-be-released study about walmart’s effect on obesity in the neighborhoods where it operates.

“The researchers found that one new Walmart supercentre per 100,000 residents meant an average weight gain of 1.5 pounds per person sometime over a 10-year period dating from the store’s opening. It also boosted the obesity rate by 2.3 percentage points, meaning that for every 100 people, two who weren’t obese ended up in that category after a superstore opened.”

(asides: walmart could really stand to get a tighter rein on the way their name’s represented. hat tip to paul hebert for passing this on.)

3. exercise, iPods could be causing pedestrian deaths

this article falls under the “irritating” category. in it, the writer includes, unquestioningly, the suggestion that michelle obama’s “let’s move” campaign is a potential cause of a spike in pedestrian deaths. as if people needed another reason not to exercise.

“GHSA (Governors Highway Safety Association) executive director Barbara Harsha said her organization doesn’t know why there were more deaths in the first six months of 2010 than in 2009, but the increase is notable because overall traffic fatalities went down 8 percent during this period, and the increase ends four straight years of steady declines in pedestrian deaths.

But the ‘get moving’ movement, led by Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign to eliminate childhood obesity, could be to blame, Harsha told The Washington Examiner.”

4. the new republic: how government boosts health

this NPR/the new republic article examines whether the health care reform law can be accurately represented as a “government takeover.” it also offers a number of links to additional content.

“These sorts of regulations are, fundamentally, no different from the regulations guaranteeing that food and consumer products are safe. In other words, they are a form of consumer protection, pure and simple. But the regulations also serve another role, one that reflects the unique nature of health care as a commodity: These regulations make sure insurance is actually available to everybody.”

5. adding clarity to health care reform

thaler, the author of nudge, brings his behavioral economics mindset to health care reform, in particular the mandate that everyone must buy insurance.

“Adopt a new bill that says that if a state doesn’t want to accept a mandate—or some alternative like the one described above—it may opt out of health care reform. But a state that chooses this course would lose a percentage—or perhaps all—of the federal funds that the health care bill would funnel to state governments. In other words, states would be permitted to turn down the health care program, but they would then give up a share of the revenue, as well as other features of the law that are popular.”

6. 2011 global medical trends survey report (towers watson)

this report details medical trends, the causes behind them and the increasing prevalence of wellness offerings.

The clear interest all regions are showing in employee
wellness is encouraging, and we expect that wellness
features will play a greater role in managing global
medical costs going forward. In a global economy that
will likely continue to experience medical inl ation in
the short and medium terms, these approaches may
be more effective as cost-management tools for
organizations than traditional cost-sharing methods.
And they have the substantial added benei t of
encouraging employee participation, engagement and
productivity in the long term, further reining in cost
growth.

“The clear interest all regions are showing in employee wellness is encouraging, and we expect that wellness features will play a greater role in managing global medical costs going forward. In a global economy that will likely continue to experience medical inflation in the short and medium terms, these approaches may be more effective as cost-management tools for organizations than traditional cost-sharing methods. And they have the substantial added benefit of encouraging employee participation, engagement and productivity in the long term, further reining in cost growth.”

7. stress, man flu, absenteeism, and headlines run amok

i like this article for two reasons. first, it reminds us not to take media coverage of studies at face value (or even the studies, as this new yorker article attested). second, it identifies the connection between job-related stress and physical health, something wellness efforts need to grapple with more deliberately.

“As the journal’s editors point out, increases in everyday health problems and stress, over a period of years, can be precursors of major problems that lead to long-term disability. ‘Ordinary occurrences such as the common cold,’ they wrote, ‘can be a warning sign that all is not right and perhaps timely intervention may prevent worklessness and the accompanying decline in health.'”

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Leave a Comment

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob Merberg January 24, 2011 at 9:10 am

Thanks for including my “stress, man flu, absenteeism, and headlines run amok” blog post in this round-up, Fran! I hope this may help bring additional attention to the two issues you cited in your summary.

These weekly Digests are invaluable.

Reply

fran January 24, 2011 at 11:45 am

bob, thanks. i like the digests too, though i find it hard keeping the included articles to a reasonable number.

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