Move more, eat better, don’t smoke: The new “apple a day”

Conscious Consumers seek wellness as part of the health care solution

The scalding hot topic of health care isn’t going away anytime soon. Fraught with insecurity and uncertainty (Will I have insurance? Will it cover what I need? Can I afford it at all? Can I afford my out of pocket expenses even if I have it?), health care is a source of anxiety for many, and many feel helpless to do anything about it. Enter health insurance companies, health care providers, employers, government agencies, non-profits and others who are eager to share how we can each contribute to the solution. One answer? Wellness.

Call it wellness, call it prevention, call it healthy living. Whatever you call it, it’s the new “apple a day” – behaviors that increase health and decrease your likelihood of requiring medical attention. These behaviors include things like eating fewer calories, getting enough physical activity and avoiding unhealthy actions like smoking, drinking too much alcohol or even riding in a car without a seatbelt. Many of these behaviors are promoted as being simple, every day choices that can just as easily be made as the less-healthy alternative. The perfect audience for creating wellness momentum? Conscious Consumers.

Discussions around Conscious Consumers can quickly go “green,” but it’s important to remember that this type of consumer also focuses on wellness. There’s a lot of overlap between making health choices and environmentally friendly choices – walking or biking, purchasing produce at a farmer’s market or co-op, using products that lack harsh chemicals – all are options that are good for you and the environment. Getting that extra bang for your conscious decision buck feels pretty good, but there are lots of health-only decisions Conscious Consumers make, like getting physical activity that doesn’t replace a transportation need or eating vegetables to help fight disease.

And now, in the U.S., with concern about health care at the top of the radar, Conscious Consumers are finding one more thing to be conscious of. Not just for our own pocketbooks, or for our own personal health, but for the greater good. By the nature of having a model where the general wellness (or sickness) of society determines what we all pay for care, we all have a role in working to control costs.

So, who’s making it easy for Conscious Consumers to make good choices? There’s a booming “wellness” business led by the force that is often blamed for the health care predicament: insurance companies. All the major health insurance companies have invested in creating wellness plans to offer directly to policy holders or through employers. These wellness plans include incentives for those who are willing to take health risk assessments and then make healthy changes based on their results. Have diabetes? Enroll in a phone coaching program that ensures medication compliance. Overweight? Sign up for Weight Watchers at Work and get a discount on your membership. Smoke cigarettes? Quit smoking and not only will you get to pay those great reduced premium rates, but we’ll give you $500 to boot!

Employers offer “know your numbers” biometric screening for free on site at work. They have fitness centers installed. They subsidize healthy choices in the cafeteria. Insurers offer free quit-smoking help and cover nicotine replacement therapy like patches and gum. They reimburse a portion of your fitness center membership fee if you go 12 times a month. At the most basic level, they don’t charge for preventive care like physicals and immunizations.

In spite of the mess and stress of a health care system that confuses and perplexes even those of us who somewhat understand it, there’s the opportunity for the Conscious among us to experience the win/win of “good for me/good for society.” As trendsetters, organizations that promote wellness are certainly interested in the Conscious Consumer market who lead the way in creating social norms, and these consumers are symbiotically interested in finding the next “apple a day.”

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