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In a July 11, 2013 blog posted at Blogging4Jobs.com, wellness vendor Judy Thompson advocates that human resources (HR) departments ensure that their wellness program encourages employees to get early treatment because doing so improves health and saves money. Only if you aren’t paying attention.
No concept is more controversial in medicine today than the timing of initiating treatment. Because we have become the culture that wants to screen for everything, we are both “finding” more disease and treating it sooner, but not to any apparently productive or economical ends. In fact, we are injuring people by treating them early, and the wellness industry, takes a good part of the blame for this as they inappropriately medicalize US workplaces.
Ms. Thompson does not specify which ailments require early treatment….an oncoming cold? It’s viral and will run its course in 7 to 10 days. An episode of low back pain? It is often a unique clinical event precipitated by an injury…should people anticipate their injuries? Or, how about an episode of congestive heart failure (CHF)? An infinitesimal proportion of CHF occurs in the working age population. Or, finally, how about everyone’s great bug-a-boo, cancer? The majority of cancer diagnoses occur after age 65. In fact, the incidence of cancer after age 65 is nearly 10 times the rate before age 65. Worse still, there is considerable disagreement, even among credible experts, about how and when to screen for many cancers, if at all, because finding them early may or may not improve outcomes.
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Sending people into the clinic is standard wellness mythology. It’s advice that creates an aura of authority and legitimacy, often dispensed by vendors with no clinical or public health expertise. Wellness vendors add the most value when they help employers develop thoughtful, creative, enticing health cultures that permeate the organization and its messaging to employees. Doing so helps employees grasp how their personal health habits help to support the organization while simultaneously improving the quality of their own health lives by. The culture can also help guide people to better habits without unwarranted intrusion into their personal space. As anyone can see by our profligate medical spending habits, Americans have no difficulty finding their way to the clinic.