Tag Archives: interactive health

Wellness Works? Prove It–and Win $$$

The reward for showing your wellness program works is now $3 million!

As almost everyone in the wellness industry knows, we have offered a $2 million reward to anyone who can show that conventional annual “pry, poke and prod” wellness saves money. I’m feeling very generous today, so let’s make the reward $3 million.

Even more importantly, let’s loosen the rules — a lot —  to encourage applicants. You’ll find the $3 million reward is not just more generous but also far easier to claim than the previous $2 million reward.

Loosening the Rules

Except as indicated below, the rules stay the same as in the previous posting, but with the following relaxed standards. Most importantly, I’ll now accept the burden of persuasion. It is my job to convince the panel of judges, using the standard civil level of proof, that you are wrong, as opposed to you having to convince them that I am wrong.

Next, let’s expand the pool from which the judges can be drawn. It wasn’t very nice of me to allow you to choose from only the 300 people on Peter Grant’s exclusive healthcare policy listserve, because obviously no one invited into a legitimate healthcare policy listserve thinks wellness saves money.

See also: Should Wellness Carry a Warning Label?  

In addition, you can also choose among the 100-plus people on Dave Chase’s email list and the 70 people on the Ethical Wellness email list. (www.ethicalwellness.org)  To make things totally objective, we will add as judges whatever two bloggers happen to be the leading dedicated lay U.S. healthcare economic policy bloggers at the time of the application for the award, as measured by the ratio of Twitter followers-to-Twitter-following, with a minimum of 15,000 followers.

So judges are chosen as follows: two bloggers chosen by objective formula, plus we each choose six people from among the other 460, with the other party having veto rights for five of them. That gives a total of four judges, who will choose a fifth from among those roughly 500 people.

The original rules included the requirement of defending Wellsteps’ Koop Award.  After all, the best vendor should be exemplary, right? A beacon for others to follow? A benchmark to show what’s possible when the best and brightest make employees happy and healthy?

However, now you have another option. You could instead just publicly acknowledge that the Koop Award committee is either corrupt or incompetent, as you prefer, because that possibility cannot be ruled out as a logical explanation for Wellsteps winning that award. Your choice….

Next, you may bring as many experts with you to address the adjudication forum as you wish to bring. I, on the other hand, will be limited to myself.

Further, you no longer have to defend the proposition that wellness as a whole has saved money. You can, if you prefer, simply acknowledge that most of it has failed…except you. Meaning that, if you are a vendor that has been “profiled” on this site in the last two years, you can limit your defense to your own specific results. You don’t have to defend the swamp.

That new loophole allows companies like Interactive Health, Fitbit, Wellness Corporate Solutions, etc. — and especially Wellsteps — to get rich…if what I have said specifically about them is wrong. I have $3 million that says it isn’t.

Special Offer for HERO

Ah, yes, the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO). The belly of the beast.

Let me make them a special offer. Paul Terry, the current HERO Prevaricator-in-Chief, has accused me of the following  (if you link, you’ll see they had enough sense not to use my name, likely on advice of counsel, given that I already almost sued them after they circulated their poison pen letter to the media):

I’m convinced responding to bloggers who show disdain for our field is an utter waste of time. I’ve rarely been persuaded to respond to bloggers [Editors note, in HERO-speak, “rarely” means “never” — except for that intercepted Zimmerman Telegram-like missive], and each time I did it affirmed my worry that, more than a waste, it’s counter-productive. That’s because they’ll not only incessantly recycle their original misstatements, but worse, they’ll misrepresent your response and use it as fodder for more disinformation.*

Tell ya what, Paul. let’s debate disinformation, including your letter. Aside from the standard 10% entry fee (used to pay the judges honoraria, reserve the venue and compensate me for wasting my time with your THC-infused quixotry), all the economic burden falls on me.

The only catch: I have asked you on multiple occasions to clue me in as to what my alleged disinformation actually is, if any. That way, I can publicly apologize and fix it, should I choose to do so.  Before applying for this award, you need to disclose this alleged disinformation. You can’t just go around saying my information is made up, etc. without specifying what it is.

By definition, “disinformation” is deliberate misrepresentation. To my knowledge, as a member of the “integrity segment” of the wellness industry, I have never, and would never, spread disinformation.

On the other hand, if I did spread inadvertently incorrect information by mistake, it seems only fair to let me fix it — especially given that I have been totally transparent and generous with my time in explaining to you what yours is, and how to correct it. (I might have missed some. Keeping up with yours is a challenge of Whack-a-Mole-meets-White-House-press-correspondent proportions.)

See also: Wellness Vendors Keep Dreaming  

So perhaps it is time to man up, Mr. Terry.  You and your cronies claim to have been collecting my “disinformation” for years, without disclosing any of it. I’m offering you a public forum and $3 million to present it.

Otherwise, perhaps you should, in the immortal word(s) of the great philosopher Moe Howard, shaddap.

A couple other mid-course corrections to the previous award offer.  Someone wondered if this offer is legally binding, so if your attorney’s knowledge of contract law matches your knowledge of wellness economics, they can voice their likely spurious objection. I will publish the objection and address it if need be, to make the reward a binding offer.

Another commenter whined that maybe I just won’t pay the reward. I’m sure that’s the reason no one has applied. (Not.) So, put 10% of the entry fee down, and I’ll attach a lien.

Should Wellness Carry a Warning Label?

You know those “three biggest lie” jokes? The third biggest lie would be: “I’m from Interactive Health, and I’m here to help you.”

Hilarious… unless you are one of those unfortunate souls who are:

  1. paying their bills;
  2. believing their outcomes; or
  3. taking their advice.

The first and third are closely related in the sense that one would think, with their fees – which rank among the wellness industry’s highest due to their industry-leading embrace of hyperdiagnosis — they could afford to train their employees in wellness.

See also: Healthcare: Need for Transparency  

However, because they apparently forgot to check that box, I’ll do it for them. I owe them this favor, having recently made unflattering observations regarding their botched cover-up of their invalid outcomes reporting.

First the good news

No one can accuse Interactive Health of wasting money on excessively silly, excessively gimmicky, excessively readable user interfaces. Here is the advice they give to employees, all 1,350 words of it, starting with Page 1:

But wait…there’s more. Page 2:

And for all those employees who simply have too much free time on their hands at work, Page 3:

More good news. They do tell this employee, after informing her that she has metabolic syndrome, to “avoid sugar.” Credit the law of averages with that — if you write 1,350 words, it is likely that two of them —  0.14% — will be correct. These two words are in the middle of the second page, so I’m sure she saw them. Who wouldn’t?

Next, the bad news

To prevent that metabolic syndrome from progressing to diabetes, the letter also recommends “lowfat or nonfat dairy” in the diet. However, according to the the journal Circulationpeople with the most dairy fat in their diets had a 50% lower risk of diabetes. Likewise, a study of 18,000 women showed lower obesity among those who consumed full-fat dairy. Journal articles are likely beyond Interactive Health’s grade level, so here are two lay summaries and two lay books:

  1. The Skim Milk Scam: Words of Wisdom from a Doctor Dairy Farmer
  2. Lowfat Dairy: Zombie Guidance
  3. The Big Fat Surprise
  4. The Bad Food Bible

It’s not just dairy fat, where the science, though perhaps not definitive, is settled enough that even the dumbest wellness vendor should know not to tell diabetics to switch to skim milk. It’s also saturated fat in general, where the change in scientific understanding over the last 10 years has caught many wellness vendors by surprise, and they haven’t had time to react.

If consumed in large quantities, perhaps saturated fat may be a heart disease risk factor nonetheless.  Who are we to say? However, if it were a culprit of any significance — like trans fats or cigarettes or family history — that conclusion would be definitive by now, given the massive amount of research that’s been thrown at this question.  Even if saturated fat were a minor risk factor, there is still one overriding reason that Interactive Health shouldn’t be telling people with metabolic syndrome to eat less fat: What the he** do they think people will eat instead? There is a whole body of literature on how telling people to eat less fat helped create the obesity epidemic.

In all fairness to Interactive Health, they recommend eating only less dairy and other saturated fat, not less total fat. However, that is a subtlety that can get lost in those 1,350 words brimming with all sorts of random advice. For instance, on the subject of abnormal thyroid function, the letter says: “Talk with your healthcare provider about possible treatment options for this condition.” Sound advice indeed — if in fact the person in question had abnormal thyroid function, but according to this report (bottom of Page 2), her “thyroid was normal.”

More bad news

Even though this person does not have high blood pressure, the letter also recommends eating less salt. For people without high blood pressure and especially people like her who have other diabetes and cardiac risk factors, avoiding salt is likely a bad idea.

Other than the answer being different for different people and different ethnicities (subtleties overlooked by almost all wellness vendors, which prefer to give blanket advice), the science is unsettled. It does, however, increasingly point to the importance of salt — something humans have been consuming in large quantities ever since way before the Roman empire paid its soldiers in salt — in the diet. This is especially the case for people with, or at risk for, diabetes or heart disease (which this person is). In particular, for people without hypertension, reducing salt intake to a level much below the U.S. average:

Among other limitations,  most of these studies are correlative, not causative, and rely on self-reporting rather than controlled environments.  So we can’t conclude with certainty that avoiding salt is a bad idea. Nonetheless, my suspicion is that companies paying Interactive Health millions of dollars — and basically forcing their employees to choose between submitting to them or losing money — have assumed that the advice they are giving employees is settled and likely correct, rather than controversial and likely incorrect.

Other studies, generally older ones, recommend low-salt diets to prevent high blood pressure, so it is still at least arguably fair to say salt science is conflicted. But the overriding reason for Interactive Health to stop telling employees at risk for diabetes to eat less salt and less saturated fat is, what the he** do you think they are going to eat instead? Because most proteins come with saturated fat (and salt), there is only one thing left to eat: carbohydrates.

The bottom line is that anyone who actually takes Interactive Health’s advice on how to avoid diabetes is likely to increase their odds of getting diabetes.

See also: Wellness Isn’t the Only Scam in Healthcare 

Fortunately, most employees will have the good sense to ignore their advice, if for no other reason than it is quite a Herculean task to plow through it all. How do I know this? By definition, any employee reading this blog is more health-conscious than average. And yet the particular employee who, after reading my blog post on them, sent me this letter originally sent me only the first and third pages. She hadn’t even realized there was a second page, because Interactive Health printed it on the back of the first page.

Ironically, that was the page where it said “avoid sugar.”

The “coaching” call

In addition to the letter, this employee did receive a coaching call, described as follows:

When they called to offer me advice, they simply said, “ Do you know you have high cholesterol?” I said, “Yes.” Then she proceeded to ask me what I was going to do about it. I said: “I thought you would tell me what to do.” She had nothing to say. Then I received another call a few weeks later as a follow-up, and I wanted nothing to do with them as they had already discredited themselves with the first call.  

In yet another installment (which will have to wait until 2018 because December is devoted to highlighting the best-in-shows of the wellness industry and, of course, the Deplorables Awards) we’ll explain how Interactive Health translates ignorance of clinical guidelines, bad dietary advice and massive hyperdiagnosis into quite literally the most inflated savings in the wellness industry this side of Wellsteps.