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  • Staci Datteri-Frey

Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice


As health promotion advocates we promote changes in the work environment which make the healthy choice the easy choice. Things like: fruit bowls, healthier vending and cafeteria choices, higher prices for high fat, sugary and salty foods sold at work, stairwell campaigns, etc. You can imagine my concern when I received a copy of this email plea to her workforce from a fellow health promotion advocate. Please read and share…

Fear of Progression in Chronic Disease

“Last week I had a conversation with someone regarding their health care situation that scares me and breaks my heart. The health situation for this individual is precarious. The future is full of unknowns, but there is one thing staring this kind and hardworking individual in the face and that is the threat of going on a medication – probably for the rest of his/her life. The person is sad. The person is scared. The person doesn’t know what to do!

Each day I have the opportunity to talk with many of our employees’ one on one and I also have the awesome responsibility of positively impacting the health and productivity of our workforce. During my many visits with these individuals I hear a common theme and that is that there is something going on (wrong) with their health. I hear about persistent aches and pains, heart conditions, weight struggles, headaches, the threat of/or the diagnosis of chronic disease such as diabetes and the list goes on.

The reality is that these individuals work right alongside you each and every day. There is no “scarlet letter” on their forehead indicating his/her looming health crisis and it is difficult for them to share this information with co-workers and friends for many reasons – personal and work related.

Eat Well Work Well

Why the introduction? These individuals deserve a voice. During our conversations I hear the same thing over and over again. I hear comments about how hard it is to eat healthy at work and to stick to their diet because of what is continually being brought in and how they do not have the will power to stay away from the treats. These individuals shared how they don’t want to be considered rude or not part of the group if they don’t take a treat.

The issue around food and willpower is not easily resolved. So before you start the rebuttal in your head about how the individual (a.k.a. the other person) can just choose not to eat the treat, consider what drove you to purchase the ‘shared’ item in the first place. Maybe it is that perfect combination of sweet and salty that YOU were craving? Maybe it is Friday and you had a hard week so everybody should celebrate the end of the week? Maybe it is because you were at the store and smelled or saw those treats calling out to you and instead of buying just one, you figured, “heck it’s cheaper to get a dozen”, and bought more. Maybe it is because the stress that you and your coworkers are going through can only be “made better” by a treat?

My simple request is this: stop for a moment and take a look at what your perceived act of kindness is doing for others.

Quality of Life and Chronic Disease

To those I’m giving the voice to - here is their reality. The thoughts go something like this, “I have a disease.” A disease that is associated with the implications of a decreased quality of life, potential loss of years of life or limb, and other diseases that carry with them another set of drugs to take care of them. “Because of “X”, I don’t feel good.” The person no longer has the energy and vitality to play with the kids, to go for a walk, to simply take in all that life has to offer.

The Financial Cost of Chronic Disease

To the individual there is the economical side, too. Part of his/her budget each month now goes towards a monthly visit to the pharmacy for prescriptions and supplies. Money that once went to spoiling the grandchildren or going into the vacation fund is reallocated.

To business there is a price, too! For example, if we look at diabetes as the chronic illness, for perspective, it costs 2-4 times more to manage a healthy diabetic than it does to manage a healthy individual. It is estimated that the average diabetic costs $4.6K yearly to manage without any complications (roughly 19% of diabetics fall into this category). For those that also have additional cardiovascular risks (about 59% of diabetics) we see that it costs a bit more to manage them at $6.9K yearly. Those who suffer cardiac complications cost $17.2K yearly (this is about 19% of the population). Those who suffer renal complications (1% of group) cost $34.7K yearly and finally, those suffering renal and cardiac conditions cost $45.8k yearly. Obviously the majority of these costs are preventable through preventing diabetes (the least costly route) or managing it well once onset.

This also trickles down to all of us personally as we pay our monthly insurance premiums. Premiums increase because utilization increases. Simply put, when you are sick or don’t feel well you go to the doctor more and require more services.

Healthy and Tasty Work Snacks

I go back to my simple request. Instead of going for the treat that is cheap, fast, and easy take a few minutes and say I really care about you by bringing in a healthy treat such as fruit, veggies or nuts. Spend time with your co-worker, get to know them and encourage them to step away from their work station. Go for a walk.

We can all enjoy many MORE celebrations together if we start taking charge of our health habits and make them positive!”

Further Reading:

Cues To Overeat: Psychological Factors Influencing Overconsumption

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17343777

Beating Mindless Eating

http://www.foodpsychology.cornell.edu/research/beating-mindless-eating.html

Thank you to Staci Datteri-Frey and her commitment to the field of health promotion.

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