Americans give in to junkfood, plans aim to find out why

June 1, 2012

Sure, you need to eat right and exercise, but why aren't you doing it?

NATIONAL REPORTS - America's obesity epidemic hinges on prevention efforts and personal motivation, industry experts say. Last month, the detailed report from the Institute of Medicine projected that 42% of Americans will be obese by 2013, resulting in a whopping $550 billion increase in healthcare costs over the next two decades.

The big take away from the report has been that Americans know how to make healthy choices, but still don't make them. Members of all ages must begin making healthier choices today in order to prevent costly chronic conditions tomorrow.

CALORIES IN, CALORIES OUT

"If you have the choice between a cheeseburger and a piece of chicken, what are you going to pick?" Slovenski says. "You know you should pick the chicken, right? But most people want to pick the cheeseburger and give in to the temptation."

Although it's important to focus on eating the right types of calories, Slovenski says that it's even more important to understand what specifically motivates someone to make the right choice. What it all boils down to, he says, is getting people not only to understand that very simple calories in/calories out equation, but also helping them understand why they need to actually do something about their wellness.

He believes that members must find the motivation-in the cheeseburger example-to choose the chicken sandwich and also pay attention to why they make the choice.

"The 'because' answer is so unique to each individual person that it takes a little bit of time and effort to help them discover it," Slovenski says.

Insurers are starting to realize this, too. In order to change behaviors, time needs to be taken upfront through surveys, asking the right kind of questions, and getting engaged with a person to understand what makes them tick.

"The research really shows that the more that you can tailor incentives and rewards for people to do what they should be doing, you're going to get substantially better results and get more people motivated to make those changes than if you're constantly beating them with a stick, so to speak," Slovenski says. "The positive side of incentives and reward is where you really get people uplifted."

Some want to eat healthier and lose weight because they want to see their grandkids graduate high school, for example. Everyone has a slightly different motivator for why they're willing to make the effort to change.

"We've worked hard to personalize and tailor everything we do to an audience of one so we get the true motivation, even though we might be doing it for millions of members," he says.

According to Slovenski, many plans fall short of helping members with wellness if they have multiple programs that are helpful but disparate. If they're not connected properly, a consumer will have to interact with two or three different people or programs to get one outcome, which is highly inconvenient and may result in the person losing interest.

Members need nutritional advice specific to their needs. Slovenski predicts that within five or six years-based on the projected volume of need moving forward-there will be a shortage of access to nutritionists in this country.

But with healthcare reform and an increased emphasis on paying for preventive services, plans can expect to see the number of health coaches, nutritionists, dietitians, exercise physiologists and others to increase.

Nutrition in America