Quickly whipping through some trade press today, an article that cited a recent Wall Street Journal analysis on mortality caught my eye.
Americans are increasingly dying of heart disease and strokes as they hit middle age – a trend that seems to be hitting much of our country equally, which suggests that the underlying causes of heart disease are more universal and tougher to address than was once thought.
It used to be easy to pin the health statistics on portions of the country and cite that the South had issues given the dietary preferences or food preparation – but when you see places like Colorado, with some of the healthiest statistics and a population that spends a great deal of time in outdoor activity climbing higher on the list – that becomes a cause for concern. By the numbers, according to the CDC, 18 percent of American kids and nearly 40 percent of adults are now obese and that creates chronic health conditions that are tough and expensive to deal with. Couple that with some recent press surrounding the closure of rural hospitals. Some estimates put it at 120 rural hospital closures over the past decade. That is leaving a number of rural Americans with fewer health options as other trends on their health are heading in the wrong direction. According to the National Rural Health Association, bad debt for rural hospitals has risen significantly in the past 10 years.
All of that reminds me how very lucky I am to be under the NTCA GHP program and that years ago, our industry leaders had the foresight to band together to allow rural communications entities to pool their resources and risks under what is now our Group Health Trust. I don’t take a fancy plan and frankly, take the same plan I first signed up for because it’s what I know, but I found even this year that the plan covered so much of my basic costs that even after ordering enough contact lenses and solution for the next year in advance, I still am leaving flex money on the table (drat!).
It also points to the importance of creating wellness programs within our offices and operations to incentivize our teams to get active and take care of themselves. Kimberly Nunnally on our staff just reminded folks to submit our 2019 expenses for gyms and Weight Watchers etc – certainly having a subsidized gym membership is a perk and one I intend to take more advantage of in the year ahead. (OK, disclaimer, I did make my way to the gym at lunchtime today and have the post-workout ponytail hair to prove it but then managed to “reward” myself with some leftover holiday chocolate but am simply hoping that those will balance one another out!).
At SMC/GHP, we are focused enough on Wellness that we are ensuring that we have enough staff resources to work with our member companies on supporting their efforts. I have heard from our members the success of weight loss challenges, walking challenges, Rally rewards (don’t forget to sign up for 2020!), exercise equipment in the office, supported gym memberships and more. Whatever gets folks excited about moving and eating well – that is motivation enough! But I also find wellness can be very personal. I haven’t stepped on a scale in years (not since NTCA’s last weight team challenge when I did little to help my team), but I can tell with my favorite pair of jeans, when I need to start skipping desserts again – or better yet – throw out the chocolate just waiting for me in my desk drawer.
My true wellness motivation? Right now I have 2 large pups that demand from me at least 3 walks a day so I know that unless I am down and out with the flu, I am putting on my Sketchers and being pulled down the street by two energetic pups that wont take no for an answer!