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Worksite Wellness conference focuses on future of health care

November 28, 2009
By Wayne Sheets, Contributing Business Writer

I had the privilege of attending part of the 2009 mid-Atlantic conference on Worksite Wellness late last month out of which came some interesting, if not staggering, facts about health in the workplace and the future of health care.

There were many areas of health care discussed, but one of those of most concern is obesity and its rapid rise in America. According to information furnished at the convention, during the period of 1976 through 1980, 14 percent of the population was obese and 46 percent was overweight. Today, 34 percent of our population is obese and 66 percent is overweight. Obesity costs an estimated $200 billion a year in health care costs - more than 10 percent of all health care costs. It is responsible for about 27 percent of health insurance increases from 1987 to 2001 and causes an estimated 400,000 deaths per year in the Unites States alone. Overweight passengers have cost the airlines an additional 350 million gallons of jet fuel over the past 10 years.

The only greater threat to health and the greatest increase in health care costs is smoking. Statistics are, for the most part boring - these are frightening.

Another area of intense interest to conference attendees was "The Next Healthcare" presented by 30-year health care specialist Joe Flower, who has emerged as the premier observer and thought leader on the deep forces changing health care in the United States and around the world.

Flowers said the two words that will change health care of the future are "data transparency." This is not an unfamiliar term in West Virginia. If you will remember, Gov. Joe Manchin talked about this awhile back when he was discussing his health care concerns.

"When we're buying a hot dog, getting the car serviced, going out to dinner - any time we make a buy decision - we always ask the value question: 'How good is it, and how much does it cost?'" Flowers said. "We have never been able to ask the value question until now in health care. Medicine has been thought too complex to evaluate, and the ways in which we choose it and pay for it have obscured the relationship between payment and outcomes.

"The new data-driven world changes that. It is now possible to discover just what it costs to deal with common medical conditions, what are the consensus parts of the process and how good particular medical teams are at performing them.

"We are rapidly moving into an era in which our customers (patients, referring physicians, health plans, employers, government regulators, voters) will routinely demand such information, and will shift their business to the organization that can give them the best answers - whether it be another facility across town, a Wal-Mart nurse-in-a-box, a specialty center elsewhere in the country, or an organization somewhere in South Asia. Those who thrive will be those who are better, faster, cheaper and can show it. Those who cannot will have a hard time surviving at all."

There are only 26 shopping days before Christmas, counting today - but I'll bet you knew that. A good place to do some shopping, if you happen to be in Charleston, might be the recently opened West Virginia State Museum Shop. According to shop manager Sandy Eads, the nearly limitless array of gift items include books, music, prints, note cards, toys, games, dolls, jewelry, pottery, textiles, wood products, basketry, gourmet foods, T-shirts, mugs, Civil War collectibles and many other items. As an added bonus, the staff at the shop can prepare custom packages and gift boxes for customers, and they'll have access to Tamarack's inventory in Beckley to place special orders or request additional products.

The shop is located on the north side of the Culture Center's Great Hall. It is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. It is closed on Mondays. For more information, call 304-205-7911.

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had declined in September, deteriorated further in October. The Index now stands at 47.7, down from 53.4 in September.

"Consumers' assessment of present day conditions has grown less favorable, with labor market conditions playing a major role in this grimmer assessment," says Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "In fact, the Present Situation Index is now at its lowest reading in 26 years (Index 17.5, February 1983). The short-term outlook also has grown more negative, as a greater proportion of consumers anticipate business and labor market conditions will worsen in the months ahead. Consumers also remain quite pessimistic about their future earnings, a sentiment that will likely constrain spending during the holidays."

Charity begins at home and in this case, home is Clarksburg. Carolyn Reynolds Burnside's book "Unto the Least of These - Clarksburg League for Service" published by McClain Printing in Parsons is not only a record of the humanitarian services and projects this organization has performed since it was established in 1934, it is also a mini-history of the city.

History, however, can be found wherever one looks, in photos and in text. This little book of a few pages less than 200 is richly endowed with both. If the old adage "A picture is worth a thousand words," is true then this book speaks volumes about the people who have been involved with this program since its inception, the history of Clarksburg, its customs and charitable inclinations. The little book could also be used as a wellspring of ideas for all those organizations whose mission is to help the less fortunate.

Founded by Amy Roberts Vance, The League has provided services and materials to the needy in Harrison County ranging from health care to scholarships to clothing and food. In its 75th year, it is still an active and viable organization.

Begun in the depths of the Great Depression, Burnside in the conclusion of her introduction says, "Here then in a time when need abounded and a woman who recognized that need happened upon the scene. As a woman with children, Amy Vance could empathize with other women who had great concerns for their children in those harsh economic times. ... Here then began the Clarksburg League for Service. ... It was a timely and fortunate confluence of a time, a place and a woman that would achieve an impressive outcome."

In her forward, First Lady Gayle Manchin said, "God bless the enduring stamina, commitment and dedication of Carolyn Burnside in the monumental task that she undertook to preserve a phenomenal legacy for us all."

The book is available in local bookstores or by order ing from McClain Printing Co. of Parsons.

I truly hope that everyone who ventured out into the shopping arena on Black Friday came through without too many broken bones, bruises and near-disastrous fisticuffs. Most of all, I hope you survived without injury your "wild and wicked" adventures in the mall parking lots - I like to refer to it as "real life bumper cars."

All of these traumas of the season add up to one thing - why not shop locally?



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