Wellness Ignited! Edelman panel talks about how to build a health culture in the U.S.

Dr. Andrew Weil, the iconic guru of all-things-health, was joined by a panel of health stakeholders at this morning’s Edelman salon discussing Wellness Ignited – Now and Next. Representatives from the American Heart Association, Columbia University, Walgreens, Google, Harvard Business School, and urban media mavens Quincy Jones III and Shawn Ullman, who lead Feel Rich, a health media organization, were joined by Nancy Turett, Edelman’s Chief Strategist of Health & Society, in the mix.

Each participant offered a statement about what they do related to health and wellness, encapsulating a trend identified by Jennifer Pfahler, EVP of Edelman.

Trend 1: Integrative Medicine & Holistic Care. Dr. Weil talked about wellness as holistic. He and colleagues in Arizona are launching the first integrative primary care clinic in Maricopa County, AZ, to serve county employees /covered by CIGNA, supported with a grant from the Coors Foundation. Weil et al. will be collecting data about what integrative practices work, which they’ll take to health care payers to help move reimbursement from a volume-based, all-intervention-all-the-time payment paradigm to a system that pays fairly for prevention and whole health. The goal will be to drive health care protocols toward integrative treatments that work and aren’t dependent on expensive medical technology – with the intention of driving health care costs down. Often, consumers can reduce their dependence on prescription drugs by adding natural products into their daily lives, when evidence-based, Dr. Weil explained.

Trend 2: Wellness is Rich. Quincy Jones III and Shawn Ullman are partners in this urban health media organization, having built up a social media presence of 3 million views on YouTube — more than Web MD, Jenny Craig, and Weight Watchers combined, delivering messages of health and wellness to an underserved, unengaged urban demographic.  “I was the only kid in Hip Hop who was a vegan,” Quincy III told the audience. And Shawn said he was a Jewish boy who was put into therapy because he was addicted to Hip Hop. The duo played a Feel Rich video with the message, “it doesn’t matter where you come from or where you’ve been,” featuring Hip Hop artists who are getting into shape. “Even though I lost weight, I didn’t lose who I am,” one said. “It only matters where you’re going and what you do from here. A healthy body is your ticket to the good life.” Feel Rich is keeping the health message fresh, real, and engaging. They refer to Feel Rich as “the first urban health media company where fitness is your style,” and “food choices that make sense on your streets.” ”Don’t just feel good, Feel Rich,” the tagline asserts. Quincy III says the urban community is usually focused on “looking rich,” with nice cars and the bling associated with the stereotype of Hip Hop imagery. But if you don’t have your health you can’t enjoy life, he told the Edelman audience, which was quite wrapped up in Feel Rich’s engaging media presentation. The Huffington Post recently published a story on Feel Rich, so, “now the talent coming to us,” the team notes. Make health the new wealth as a status symbol, is Feel Rich’s motto. Their fans on Twitter tweet the social media managers 24×7, with one fan from the Bronx asking what he should order at McDonald’s. “We tell him to get the grilled chicken,” Shaun said. “Better yet, walk out,” he suggested to the attendees’ delight. Feel Rich isn’t a fly-by-night transient dream: the media company scored the #2 most downloaded direct-to-consumer film on iTunes last year, and their biopic on Tupac Shakur combined hard documentary facts on the Black Panthers with meat and potatoes Hip Hop of Tupac, concluding with 15 minutes of synthesis — altogether, 2o to 30 “life lessons,” Quincy III judged. Their biggest challenge is linking with sponsors who will take them seriously. Now with a cast of millions of followers, I think they can be considered serious enough.

Trend 3: Food intervention and economics. Healthy eating and addressing the obesity epidemic are a passion for Harvard Business School’s Professor Jason Riis. In applying the paradigm of Slow and Fast Thinking in retail environments, Jason thinks Dr. Weil and the Feel Rich team have it “exactly right,” he said: they’re trying to change the culture to stem the obesity and associated Type 2 diabetes epidemics. Jason and his team are challenging the food industry to change. While he compliments the food industry’s progress in doing an “extraordinary job providing us delicious foods super cheap and super convenient,” Jason argues that, “now they have to add in the health piece which is a lot harder.” He points to Pepsico and McDonald’s who have started down this tough road, recognizing that these companies must take risks that can incorporate behavioral economics and science into their marketing strategies. Most of the hundreds of decisions we make daily are made with our fast brains: this causes people to binge and eat mindlessly without attending to how full they feel. The trick is to artfully design messaging and marketing processes that change consumers’ decision processes to move more slowly. One experiment marks foods with red, yellow and green signage, representing unhealthy, mid-health, and high-health segments. Another experiment trying to slow down thinking in food choices was done with Chinese take-out menus, asking people if they’d like to “right-size” — not ”down-size” — side dishes of rice. In so doing, 1 in 3 customers said, “yes.” So there is pent-up demand, Jason has found, for conserving

Trend 4: Wellness is expansive. Ken Finneran of Walgreens spoke about the “retailization of wellness.” I’ve written a lot about Walgreens’ new pharmacy model, which liberates the pharmacist from her static position behind-the-wall and instead brings her to the front of the health area, enabling her to interact and counsel health consumers. Walgreens has also expanded the ”pantry” to include fresh fruit and veg along with sushi. The chain now claims to be the largest single purveyor of sushi in the U.S. In a promotional video about the new Walgreens retail footprint, the over-arching concept is “Well at Walgreens:” “at the core is the trusted pharmacy,” the video describes. “Conveniences are brought together into a set of solutions called Walgreens….To manage well, stay well, live well. Well at Walgreens….Well is where health and happiness meet… From the (pharmacy) center of strength reaches out to connect health with happiness in subtle and profound ways by helping people with what they need and need to know….Making difficult moments a bit easier. Bringing fun to daily life. By understanding that often the best remedy is a healthy smile…Well at Walgreens: healthy happy creating value together. Walgreens: There’s a Way.” This is a bold vision, but one that Walgreens is positioned for, at least in terms of real estate reach. Walgreens has 6 million customers come through its doors every day. Their stores are within 3 miles of 67% of Americans –75% of African Americans and 78% of Hispanics are “just around the corner from Walgreens.” Ken sees the company has the opportunity to change how health and wellness shape America.

Trend 5: Connected Health. Wellness is Connected, which was David Blair of Google’s theme. The Edelman Health Barometer survey has found that the biggest impact on personal health is social influence. Google creates health connection points. In his presentation on Orchestrating Healthcare Marketing, David talked about how to “make the web work for you.” The presentation was more about branded pharmaceutical and medical device websites than about personal health management featuring YouTube as a “medical care” channel — not so much about health and wellness.

Trend 6: Changing health behavior. Kathy Rogers of the American Heart Association talked about the science around happiness and wellbeing, and focusing away from reducing mortality and risk factors to improving health behaviors and health factors; from preventing disease toward healthy living and living well; from clinical settings to “all” settings, a la Walgreens. It will take a huge amount of work to shift from the old paradigm to the new, healthy one. Kathy discussed the subtle change in messaging required to do this: for example, instead of telling be to be more physically active, ask people to be “less sedentary.” Because there so much information compelling people to change health behaviors, this glut can result in behavior change paralysis instead of a positive momentum to change and sustain the new choice.

Edelman conducts the annual Health Barometer, assessing global consumers’ attitudes on health engagement, motivation and technology, for which I am an advisor.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: The seventh trend is creating a culture of health, which Dr. Linda Fried of Columbia University’s School of Public Health synthesized across the other six mega-trends. Her message: it takes a village, breaking down the silos of medical “care,” pharmacy, schools, food companies, transportation planners, and the public at large. It takes a new definition of public health, and a new process of co-creating health. This can’t be done by just one sector: it’s all touchpoints, recognizing that the consumer with even the best intentions and motivations can’t do this alone.

An example of this is that, over the past few days, I’ve witnessed several signs of Dr. Weil’s embrace of whole health in the #healthcareDIY mode, from his endorsement of a brand of orthotics sold on QVC to an ad for his branded Origins skincare line in Real Simple magazine. He knows, lives, and markets the fact that, as Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin has said, health is where we live, work, play and pray — from the face creams we choose to protect our skin, to what we eat, where we park our cars, and what we choose to put on our feet. Shoes are made for walking, and walking is a good health habit. He also endorses products because the proceeds generated through lending his name and image helps pay for his health center at the University of Arizona.

Wellness doesn’t only ignite by our individual selves: health is social, and the people around us profoundly influence us. The latest Edelman Health Barometer found that social connections have the most profound influence on health, above institutions and the government.

I was poignantly reminded of this over the weekend, which I spent with some extended family members, one of whom has battled a significant, intractable weight problem for two decades. I was delighted, overjoyed, to see that since Christmas when I last saw him, he dropped 50 pounds, having joined Weight Watchers in response to three activation events: first, WW’s campaign featuring “real men” like Charles Barkley, the basketball star; second, the upcoming wedding of his oldest son; and, finally, the social, viral influence of his brother, who spent 2011 getting fit and making a huge difference in his own life. Both men have added life to their years, in a mutually-reinforcing, virtuous cycle. Connections in health and wellness are profound indeed.

4 Responses to Wellness Ignited! Edelman panel talks about how to build a health culture in the U.S.

  1. fran melmed March 27, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    I’m so sorry to have missed this event! It sounds powerful and uplifting. I love what “Feel Rich” is after. They’re dispensing with the equation of health with nags, should-haves, guilt, unsatisfying trade-offs, etc. and instead zeroing in on the power that comes with good health. And by using hip-hop and other media darlings, they’re supplanting the “cool” factor that comes from bling with one that comes from well-being.

    Trend 3 and the “right size” concept brings to mind Halfsies, a project that combines “right-sizing” your order and feeding the hungry.(http://bit.ly/GWThu1)

    I attended the Healthcare Experience Design conference while this panel was happening. There’s definitely a convergence of thinking. From BJ Fogg to Gary Hirshberg, we heard of taking small steps to facilitate behavior change–whether that’s personal behavior change or systemic–and of smashing the silos that make it impossible to effect such change for the good of all.

    Exciting days.
    f

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