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Wellness and Benefits News Roundup: Health Literacy, Scanning, and Obesity

Bad news and good news in this roundup. Let’s do the good news first, for a change.


Good News: Health Literacy

A new report endorses employee health literacy. It concludes:

35 percent of respondents either only somewhat understand, don’t understand or know nothing about their healthcare coverage, and 33 percent of respondents don’t understand their medical bills. Yet, employers are not providing adequate resources to address these issues.

Interesting, but you might ask: “How is this good news?” Well, you’re on this mailing list, right? This is indeed good news for you, because you are/will be addressing the health literacy gap already.

Like that report and this one, many articles on health literacy highlight the lack of understanding of health insurance, which is common and is a Quizzify focus.

But it’s not just health insurance literacy. As the government has pointed out in two separate studies, the more you know about healthcare in general, the less unnecessary care you demand. And, in our massively overmedicalized country whose outcomes are worse than comparable countries using much less healthcare, demanding less is often the right choice.

As coincidence would have it, a study came out last month showing exactly that, in the area of scanning.


Bad News: Scanning

As reported last week, new data in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms that Americans are getting vastly overscanned, both as compared to history and as compared to other countries. This leads to greater exposure to radiation, deposits of contrast media in the brain (which, fortunately so far, have only been linked to harms in rare cases), and – most commonly and importantly– expensive, hazardous and futile overdiagnosis and overtreatment.

JAMA’s article, “Curbing Unnecessary and Wasted Diagnostic Imaging,” concludes:

Unnecessary diagnostic imaging remains a substantial problem in the United States… The United States occupies top usage ranks… With aggressive testing, the yield of useful information increases only slightly. Further, some diagnostic tests generate the detection of mostly incidental findings (“incidentalomas”) with the frequency proportional to the excess of testing performed.

It’s those “incidentalomas” – very common findings of abnormalities not even suspected in the initial exam – that drive overdiagnosis, overtreatment, and overspending. Not to mention a ton of unwarranted employee anxiety.

The good news: Simple questions to your doctor, such as “Is this scan really necessary?”, “What are the risks of this scan?”, or “What will be learn from this scan that we didn’t already know?” may encourage the doctor to reconsider, as noted in Quizzify’s testimonials.


Bad News: Obesity

Absent a breakthrough technology, the Lancet (the British equivalent of the New England Journal of Medicine) concludes that the obesity epidemic is no closer to being solved now than when it was first identified. Their take-away:

The current approach to obesity prevention is failing despite many piecemeal efforts, recommendations, and calls to action. This Commission following on from two Lancet Series on obesity looks at obesity in a much wider context of common underlying societal and political drivers for malnutrition in all its forms­.

In other words, it may be time to reconsider crash-dieting contests and paying/fining employees on the basis of weight. Food companies’ strategies for getting us to eat more junk food – as explained in The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food – are simply way ahead of the wellness industry’s tools for getting us to eat less of it.

That is why Quizzify always recommends prioritizing fitness and movement over dieting.


Can’t get enough Quizzify insights? Here is Jen Arnold interviewing Quizzify’s CEO Al Lewis for her Redesigning Wellness podcast, where Jen interviews experts who help challenge the status quo of the corporate wellness industry.


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