News from The Parallel Universe: Top 13 Questions to ask Dr. Ron Goetzel and company about their newly published article: “Do Workplace Health Promotion (Wellness) Programs Work?”

1. Why does the article laud the Health Fitness Corp./Nebraska program as a “best practice,” even though those in charge of that program admitted they did not tell the truth about saving the lives of 514 alleged cancer victims who didn’t have cancer?

2. How can the authors claim no conflict of interest when almost all of them make their livings by promoting workplace wellness?

3. How does a Procter & Gamble study done a quarter-century ago (that no one at P&G even remembers) qualify as “recent”?

4. Why didn’t the article disclose that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) screening guidelines are virtually never followed by wellness vendors and yet somehow wellness vendors show savings anyway? How can wellness programs “show savings” when they do the opposite of the USPSTF and other academic consensus? Maybe they should demand that USPSTF endorse more screening and checkups.

5. Why wasn’t it mentioned that most wellness programs also ignore the consensus that people shouldn’t be paid to get checkups when they aren’t sick, another staple of wellness programs?

6. Why is the article still citing Larry Chapman’s 25%-savings figure even though the government’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) data indicates wellness-sensitive medical events comprise only 8% of total medical events?

7. Why are the authors citing Prof. Baicker’s article when she herself has backed off it three times, it’s never been replicated, and the most recent attempt to replicate it (in the “American Journal of Health Promotion”) showed the opposite?

8. Why are the authors still spinning RAND’s negative article into a positive one even though the author Soeren Mattke has specified that (while showing very modest health improvements) there were no savings?

9. With all the discredited “best practices” listed, we noticed no mention of Penn State? Are the authors renouncing their role (lead author) in that debacle, finally?

10. What is the academic citation for saying that a 1-pound weight loss is “clinically meaningful,” as the article claims?

11. Are the authors aware when they claim the use of incentives as “best practice” that not a single study shows that incentives have a positive, sustainable effect on health behaviors (or any other behaviors for that matter) that involve even a modicum of thinking and creativity?

12. Why is there no mention of what happens after program implementation when computing ROIs? We are talking about how ROIs completely ignore additional costs from overdiagnosis and overtreatment as a result of screenings and HRAs, weight loss regained after programs end, and the cheating, lying, taking shortcuts, and deceased intrinsic motivation that results from relying on incentives to drive participation and compliance.

13. Do the authors realize that “participation” and “engagement” are actually two different words that cannot be used interchangeably?

Sincerely, The Welligentsia – Jon Robison, Al Lewis, Vik Khanna and Tom Emerick

Jon Robison, PhD, MS, MAJon is an accomplished speaker, teacher, writer and consultant. He has spent his career advocating that health promotion shift away from its traditional, biomedical, control-oriented focus, with a particular interest in why people do what they do and don’t do what they don’t do. Jon has authored numerous articles and book chapters and is a frequent presenter at national and international conferences. He is also co-author of the book, “The Spirit & Science of Holistic Health — More than Broccoli, Jogging and Bottled Water, More than Yoga, Herbs and Meditation.” This work formed the foundation for one of the first truly holistic employee wellness programs — Kailo. Kailo won awards in both Canada and The United States, and the creators lovingly claim Jon as its father. Contact Jon at: jon@salveopartners.com or jonrobison.net.

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