I am going to make a healthy behavior change. My inspiration came from watching a video on HealthWatchMD.com in which Dr. Randy Martin told me that sitting at my desk and in meetings all day is bad for my health, even if I go to the gym after work. Despite my packed workdays, I think I can take five-minute breaks a few times a day to walk the stairs in my office building.
The sad part is that I probably have a better chance of following through if my employer (Piedmont Healthcare) were to pay me a nickel for every stair I climbed.
“You’d think being healthy is enough, but it’s not,” says Ronald E. Bachman, one of the nation’s foremost experts on healthcare consumerism. (A benefit of writing this blog is having an excuse to invite brilliant thinkers like Ron to breakfast to talk about the future of healthcare.)
Being healthy isn’t enough?
New evidence continually shows that we are becoming less healthy as a nation. A study released last month showed obesity rates are rising in every state. Obesity is linked to a host of dangerous and expensive health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Ron sees employers as the best way out of this unhealthy mess.
“It’s about engaging people with financial incentives and rewards to make better health behavioral choices,” he says. Employers have the best opportunity to experiment with different incentives in their employee health insurance plans to learn what makes people change, says Ron.
I am depressed with the idea that healthy behavioral change, at least on a broad scale, can only be achieved through some form of paying people off.
In addition to finding the right financial incentive, says Ron, employers should provide the information needed to educate consumers. He describes the information gap as “the weakest” point in current system.
This was one of the reasons we created HealthWatchMD.com – to provide health information, specifically easy to understand explanations about new developments in medicine and healthcare. Dr. Martin’s segment on July 29 about the dangers of workplace sitting caused me to change my behavior as I described above.
But, there is other evidence that even when the information to guide a healthier lifestyle is available, it doesn’t inspire most people to actually change. Studies on the outcomes of requiring restaurants in some cities to post the calorie count for the items on their menu have recently been released. The expectation that providing calories counts will lead to healthier choices by consumers has met with mostly a thud, or more appropriately, a belch. One study from 2009 showed that people actually manage to increase their calorie intakes when the numbers were available.
Maybe we are just very early in the process of providing people with information to guide healthy lifestyles and it will take some time to change actions and habits.
At least the stairs at work won’t be crowded for while.