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An Apple A Day: A Best Step Backward

Once upon a time, an apple a day kept the doctor away.

The idea wasn’t revolutionary or disruptive. It was simple, thoughtful, and inclusive to all. With neither incentive nor biometric screening, it motivated people to adopt at least one healthy behavior at least once a day.

We’ve lost a great deal of that simplicity in our approach to improving health and wellness for our workforce. Instead of focusing on a single behavior change for a single person, we’ve been focused on technologies and cookie-cutter solutions for the entire population.

In our hopes to achieve better health outcomes, lower PMPM costs, and foster better care and a better experience for our patient employees, the changes in employer-sponsored benefits have been nothing short of revolutionary.  

We’ve designed and offered an array of new benefits and programs to complement and supplement primary health coverage, giving our employees more choice, more decision-making opportunities, and greater financial responsibility. We’ve embraced the idea of value-based care, and through a population-health lens have attempted to “personalize” our health and wellness initiatives through diverse programming, and rewards.

But is all of this innovation improving the health of our employees? What if the evolution we seek is not in that next disruptive stride ahead. What if the best way forward is a small step backward?

An apple a day keeps the doctor away has become a pill a day keeps the doctor in play.

We’re more medicated, more overweight, and carrying more chronic conditions than ever before. We have worse outcomes than other industrialized nations and we’re paying more for them.

What we need is simplicity, not necessarily the next wearable, the next platform, or the next data-driven solution. We need to focus on creating a positive situation for one person at a time, one day at a time. It may be better to invest a little bit of effort each day towards that goal than trying to throw a Hail Mary informative communication, or a call-to-action bomb down the field.

We’ll always be working to improve the health of our employee population. But when was the last time that we focused on a specific individual’s health?

In our recent webinar, "One University has Diabetes on the Run," Mike Payne of Virta Health described how people notice when a co-worker loses 40 pounds and stops giving themselves shots in the office.

Such an event has the power to inspire others in the organization to follow suit. A small change to one person’s health, once a day, every day (just like an apple) can go a long way to reshaping the health of your entire organization.

One employee’s experience, one behavior change, one positive health outcome could very well rally your workforce and evolve your entire organization’s approach to health and wellness.     

Patty Starr bio image

About the author

Patty Starr

Patty Starr is president and CEO of Health Action Council and is responsible for driving the strategic direction of the organization--build stronger, healthier communities where business can thrive. 

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