Way back, in the beginning
… The idea of LoneStart Wellness came about as a result of some very powerful events—watching family members’ health decline, the avoidable death of a good friend, seeing so much confusing and conflicting information about health, and a car breakdown in the middle of absolutely nowhere (don’t ask). It was a dark and stormy night… wait… wrong story…
Jay and I took our
education, (his an M.A. in social psychology from Tulane University and mine, an M.S. in allied health from Tulane), our professional experience, and our lifelong interest in good health, and turned our focus toward wellness. This is us … We are the two LoneStart Wellness co-founders… Melinda West Seifert (me) and Steven J. (Jay) Seifert. (yes we’re married—to each other)
We had some savings (total
amount shown here) and a plan. We spent the first year developing materials for our new Wellness Program. The year: 2005. We had twin daughters in college, lots of expenses. But, we had an idea for a new business … and, we had conviction. We also had a number of people ask if we were crazy.
At the time, Atkins was
all the rage. Three cheeseburgers a day and steak wrapped in bacon for dinner? Excuse me? That can’t be right. That’s not good.
When Katrina struck New Orleans,
my video producer brother, Glen West, and family, stayed with us in Austin for about 4 weeks. He produced our first wellness introductory video to go along with the original (each hand punched and bound, produced entirely in-house, literally) workbook. (We’ve come a long way since those early days.)
Using what we know about
human attitude and behavior, we experimented on our visiting family members. We had the crazy thought that despite what everyone else was saying, all of us really already had everything we needed to live healthier lives. This isn’t really Jay, but actually, his hair looks just like this …
Jay finally lost his extra
10 “Christmas Cookie” pounds. (Did you know just 3 Christmas cookies a day can add 1.5 pounds in a week?) My sister lost the 60 pounds she’d gained with the births of her two daughters… My then 80 year-old mother lost 10 pounds (just by doing one simple thing) … My 47 year-old brother lost 18 pounds and was able to get off of his statin medications … And, I discovered I could make time for and actually enjoy walking. And, how did this experiment work out?
The “BIG” is what makes
LoneStart different from other wellness programs. LoneStart Wellness is based on established principles of social neuroscience and behavioral economics, and what we know about team-building and small group dynamics. Whoa! We were on to something big! Our operating premise became “that personally-relevant messaging and realistic expectations would result in positive, sustainable lifestyle changes.” And, for an organization, that means healthier, happier, more engaged and more productive employees.
We sat down with our
Family Practice doc (one of the good guys in medicine) to tell him what we were up to. He was so excited he volunteered his patients most at risk for type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other preventable chronic illnesses for our “beta-tests.”
Based on our beta test
successes, we then took our program to the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals (TORCH). TORCH operates in about 150 rural Texas communities that have a higher than average incidence of preventable chronic illness, few resources and are under-served by traditional wellness providers. This presented both a challenge and an opportunity.
Real Results with Real People!
Christina Benavides, Administrative Assistant at Otto Kaiser Memorial Hospital, worked alongside with her father, a Pharmacy Tech / Supervisor in his mid-fifties. Together they were part of the LoneStart Wellness Initiative at Otto Kaiser. Christina says she saw her father’s lifestyle totally change before her eyes. During the 63-day LoneStart Challenge, he lost 17 pounds and 2.4 BMI points. “He is my inspiration, yet again,” says Christina. We have lots of great stories like this one.
“What impresses me most is
the fact that six years after we completed our LoneStartNow Team Esteem Challenge, our healthier behaviors are still evident. A new culture has taken hold here that is reflected in my hospital kitchen, my bottom line, and in the lives of my employees and their families.. LoneStart Wellness has never been more timely or more important. It is the best investment I’ve ever made as a hospital administrator.” ~ Raz Cook, FACHE, Administrator, ETMC Fairfield And, Here’s a Real Testimonial And, we have lots more of these too!
We became endorsed business partners
for TORCH Management Services Inc. (TMSI) We became business partners of the National Cooperative of Health Networks (NCHN) We were selected by Texas AHEC East to provide wellness content for their 111 county healthy community initiative.
*Dr. Dee Edington’s findings in
his 2006 study Association of Healthcare Costs with Per Unit Body Mass Index Increase. This study is broadly recognized as the industry standard, and using a population of nearly 36,000 employees, it showed that an individual’s body mass index (BMI) is highly correlated with medical and pharmaceutical claims costs. Even a slight decrease in an employee’s BMI of just one point is associated with a $202.30 decrease in medical and pharmaceutical claims costs over one year. Here are some sample results from early Initiatives, 2006 -2008 * At the time the average cost per participant was $50* *
So, what’s the big deal
about WELLNESS? Why would we risk EVERYTHING to provide something a lot of people don’t even want (even when they need it most)? What keeps us going?
Today chronic diseases are responsible
for more than half of all deaths in the world and are projected to account for two-thirds of all deaths globally in the next 25 years, Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) proposes that organizations have a clear interest in investing in wellness initiatives for four major reasons: Chronic disease drives healthcare costs. Productivity losses associated with chronic disease are even greater than the medical costs themselves. Workplace wellness efforts can positively impact human capital investments. Sustainability is threatened by the epidemic of chronic disease. This… is what keeps us going
Researchers have recently concluded that
an average population-wide weight loss of 8 to 11 pounds (about 1.3 BMI points) could reduce diabetes mortality by half, and chronic heart disease mortality by a third. (British Medical Journal) (This is BIG) We know this is possible. We’ve been proving it for 8 years! This is what REALLY keeps us going
In addition to being severely
under-funded (mostly non-funded) we found that in order to address wellness, we had to actually define it. That’s not as easy as it might seem.
Wellness is like poetry. Think
of wellness as you would think of poetry. While we can all probably recite a poem of some kind, can we all define “poetry?” Probably not. This is how wellness is like poetry. They’re both abstract concepts. ?
Wellness is more, much more,
and more complicated than the absence of being ill. It’s a state of being, a state of mind, a state of change, and it is very much a lifestyle.
And, even more than a
Return on Investment, they will see a Return on Quality of Life (QOL). This leads to other significant changes within the organization. And, one of the greatest obstacles was convincing employers that wellness really does matter, that they can see a return on their investment, and that preventable chronic illness is a problem that must be addressed. More on that to come …
We had to overcome what
we call “wellness fatigue” and convince employers that LoneStart Wellness is not the same-old, same-old, tired and failed wellness program that only focuses on “diet and exercise.” Our behavioral strategy helps participants create lifestyle changes that change lives.
We knew what started as
a good idea was turning into a great thing. Our behavioral strategy was getting results. But, we also knew that to create a sustainable behavior change wellness model we needed a better business model. Some additional obstacles actually came from unexpected insights …
We’ve learned that we’re in
more than the “wellness” business. We are in the “engagement” business. “ The world’s top-performing organizations understand that employee engagement is a force that drives performance outcomes. In the best organizations, engagement is more than a human resources initiative—it is a strategic foundation for the way they do business.” __Gallup Engagement is the current business hot button.
In any given social group,
including the workplace, we know that behavior is contagious. We say we all can—and must—help spread a new wellness pandemic.
Do You Know . .
. ? “Your chances of becoming obese increase by 57 percent if one of your friends is obese, 40 percent if it’s a sibling, and 37 percent if your spouse is obese.” __Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, and James Fowler, PhD, published in New England Journal of Medicine So, behavior is contagious …
But, look at the flip
side. You are influenced by those in your social network—but you also influence others. And, you can do so deliberately. You can also look for opportunities to nudge those around you into more positive and healthier behaviors, understanding that you will move in that direction as well.
However, there’s a big difference
between a “Nudge” and a “Shove.” You can’t mandate a change of heart and you can’t drag people kicking and screaming into wellness … But, you can provide them with the toolkit needed to mindfully moderate lifestyle behavior choices. We’re really good at this part. (Unfortunately, most employers don’t understand the difference.)
More things we’ve learned …
and want to share … People want to be well—but, they must be intrinsically motivated to make lasting changes in lifestyle behaviors (this pretty much rules out carrots and sticks). We’re really good at this part too.
It’s easy to get fit
people to participate in a wellness initiative. The challenge is to craft a message that will engage the 20 percent of any population who are most at risk for preventable chronic illness. These individuals account for as much as 80 percent of an organization’s healthcare costs and are the least-likely to participate in traditional wellness offerings. And, guess where things are headed?
LoneStart’s Team Esteem Challenge creates
short-cycle, team- building opportunities that improve communication and build trust and cooperation. A “Me Problem” becomes a “We Opportunity” when employer and employees join together in a common and mutually beneficial cause—creating a new culture of well-being within their organization.
Before you can get in
shape from the neck down, you have to first get in shape from the neck up. (It’s a “retrain your brain” kind of thing.) Simply put … This is not as easy as it might sound. Most wellness programs underperform because they fail to motivate and sustain behavior change.
Employees have to believe the
wellness initiative is being done “FOR” them, not “TO” them. And they absolutely, positively have to believe in their hearts two things: This is worth it. I can do this.
And, because we focus on
the nuts and bolts, we don’t have to charge that much to do what we do. After 8 years “in the trenches” we saw a lot of money spent on traditional diet and exercise programs designed with lots of bells and whistles. But, they’re expensive, a burden to administer, and they lack the nuts and bolts necessary to change behavior. Think of us as the Nuts and Bolts guys. (We may be inexpensive, but we’re not cheap.)
We have an Advisory Board.
(They’re a bunch of good eggs.) Kinnie Parker, MPH, CHES Linda Jones, MSPH Jay (co-founder & Honcho) Me (I snuck myself in) Who is this guy? Our Accountant, Frank (poor Frank)
We’ve added a client portal
to our website. We’ve expanded our program to a 12-month Initiative, with wellness modules, e-presentations—and more!
We’re getting better at “selling”
the benefits of wellness with a more targeted message … But we’re still struggling to find a way to reach a wider audience. If we can make a difference in rural Texas, we know can make a greater difference through employers everywhere. And, fortunately (or unfortunately), the need for what we offer is rapidly expanding.
We offer a well-conceived, clearly-defined
behavioral strategy that engages both employer and employees in a shared, positive, transparent and non-punitive initiative, one that delivers multiple benefits beyond cost savings, including improved morale, communication, engagement, and productivity. This is our USP
… by reframing the entire
“wellness conversation” so it is non-judgmental, positive rather than negative, focuses on processes rather than outcomes, and carefully manages expectations. We create an environment that fosters well- being, so healthier behaviors can be learned, adopted, shared and sustained. And, this is how we do it…
If you’ve made it this
far, thanks. And, if you want to find out more, here’s our contact info: Or, just give us a call: 512.894.3440 www.lonestartnow.com P.O. Box 1188, Dripping Springs, Texas 78620