The Vitality Institute

The Checklist Itself Doesn’t Matter

Anyone who understands systems will know immediately that optimizing parts is not a good route to system excellence.…We connect the engine of a Ferrari, the brakes of a Porsche, the suspension of a BMW, the body of a Volvo. What we get, of course, is nothing close to a great car; we get a pile of very expensive junk.” – Chapter 8.

I just finished reading Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto, which was first published in 2009 and spent some well-deserved time on the New York Times Bestseller List. Written by an attending general surgeon at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, this book tells the admittedly “unsexy” story of how a simple tool such as a checklist can improve the quality and consistency of outcomes in a wide range of fields: aviation, building construction, venture capital, and (even) medicine. All of these fields are complex systems – involving many moving pieces and players, and an inherent unpredictability of conditions, materials, personnel, and complications. In addition, these arenas assume a certain level of skill and require a high standard of consistency and safety, but errors and complications still plague us. We have reached a point in many fields where the problem isn’t ignorance (we do understand a lot about the world around us) but rather ineptitude (we fail to apply the knowledge that we have consistently and correctly). A checklist can help us improve our “eptitude.”

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“Follow me: I’m a role model”

Source: Keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Though significant improvements to health can be achieved through policy change (making healthier choices the default option) and through the smart use of behavioral economic principles (like rewards and incentives), many health promotion programs suffer from an inherent bias: they primarily help only those who are ready to help themselves. People who are “pre-contemplative” and not yet considering behavior change are overlooked.

This is a troublesome situation. Any program or organization committed to health should make a conscious effort to “recommit to serving the most vulnerable” people, as Project Renewal recently did. By constantly striving to reach the toughest and most recalcitrant of cases, we as a society will avoid the complacency and poundage associated with simply “cream-skimming.”

How can we realize this goal? (more…)

Holistic Prevention for Alzheimer’s: The Time is Now

Source: Care Point Acive

A newly released study demonstrates that approximately one third of Alzheimer’s cases worldwide are attributable to seven modifiable risk factors: depression, physical inactivity, diabetes, midlife hypertension, midlife obesity, smoking, and low educational attainment. The largest proportion of cases was attributed to physical inactivity, which affects more than half of all Americans. Depression, which affects approximately 14.8 million Americans, accounted for approximately one in ten cases of Alzheimer’s disease globally.

These findings highlight the urgent need for more investment in prevention – and specifically in a holistic approach to health promotion, which includes mental health. (more…)

Live for the Healthy Now, Pepsi

In 2012, Pepsi kicked off a global “Live for Now” campaign, which promoted the idea of living “each moment to the fullest” and “embrac[ing] the ‘now’” particularly as it related to pop culture. In addition to TV, radio, and outdoor advertising, it promoted its new “Pepsi Pulse” digital and social media platform to connect with users and their experiences on-the-go. Last month, Pepsi furthered this campaign with a “Global Fashion Capsule Collection” – branding the “Live for Now” mantra on clothing and accessories.

Pepsi's Live for #Now ad

Source: Google

The #YOLO (“you only live once”) generation will almost certainly eat this up, but Living for Now has the potential for sending the message that one should make decisions made “in the now” without worrying about future consequences. This sort of thinking has deleterious effects, leading to everything from rising credit card debt to unhealthy diet or lifestyle behaviors. (more…)

Addressing the Global Obesity Epidemic: Collaboration is Key

As part of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation conducted a systematic analysis of obesity rates from 1980-2013, showing a consistent upward trend worldwide. Underscoring the costs and health impacts of the obesity pandemic, the C3 Obesity policymaker survey 2014 provides data from 11 countries and indicates increasing awareness by policymakers about obesity.

These reports highlight an opportunity to focus efforts both in and outside government in order to support the World Health Organization’s goal of 25% relative reduction in the risk of premature mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by 2025. (more…)

The Opportunity Cost of Healthy Behavior

After a long day at the office or the hospital, when I am mentally wiped out, going for a bike ride or lifting weights at the gym is often the last thing that I want to do. I also don’t want to go grocery shopping, make dinner, or plan lunch for the next day. I definitely don’t want to take the time to floss. Happy hour, sitting on the couch and watching Netflix, or trying out a new restaurant with friends sound much more appealing.

This problem is shared by all – we are constantly bombarded with messages and forced to make short-term decisions that may conflict with long-term health goals. Eat healthy, but try the KFC Double Down. Go to the gym, but have you marathon-watched that new season of House of Cards yet?

Living a “healthy” lifestyle – however defined – takes work and energy. (more…)