by Chuck Gillespie CWP, National Wellness Institute CEO
The week of July 17th was amazing. People from around the world descended upon the Greater Cincinnati area to come together and ACTIVATE wellness at the 48th National Wellness Conference. For the Board of Directors of the National Wellness Institute and I, the week began with our annual meeting. We welcomed three new members to the Board and then began a whole day of discussions and decisions. After that meeting, we welcomed and interacted with all the amazing attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, and speakers who joined us at NWC 2023. The conversations all week revolved around the current outlook of wellness and the future of the industry.
The two words that kept coming up during the annual meeting and throughout the conference were “evolve” and “advocate”.
I think we can all agree that the world has seen a significant shift in how wellness and well-being are being discussed among citizens, communities, workplaces, and through all forms of media. No longer is wellness seen by the masses as just a tool, program, promotion, or benefit. Unfortunately, a vast majority of decision-makers, policy leaders, and vendors remain stuck in the over-productization of wellness. Infographics showcasing the industry’s economic value are not helping shape philosophies of inclusive well-being for all. That type of infographic is a sales tactic to say, “Hurry up and buy a product or service or you are missing out.” Wellness is a cultural and environmental shift that needs programs, products, and services to scale. The vendors at the National Wellness Conference know this, but there are still many vendors who are just trying to sell their product or service without concern over the legal or ethical principles, or the product’s efficacy. Without competent and highly trained Well-Leaders like the Certified Wellness Practitioners (CWPs), the offerings provided to elevate the well-being of your audience are greatly diminished. Further, these professionals cannot perform miracles. They cannot expect to handle the workload alone, nor can it be done with limited budgets and in their spare time.
The consensus at the National Wellness Conference showcased a need to evolve the professional standards for wellness practitioners, vendors, influencers, and business and political decision-makers. Let’s face it, it is very easy to see right through the paper-thin siloed programming that was probably bought before a competent Certified Wellness Practitioner was brought in to lead the strategy.
Further, these hired “Well-Leaders” are still expected to work miracles with limited budgets and poorly chosen wellness platforms (that may not be wellness-related). The wellness experiment becomes a failure when the targeted audiences are not thriving citizens in six months, and then the leaders claim wellness does not work. The evidence is overwhelming that wellness works, but how you activate it and manage it is the issue.
Let me offer you a basic math problem: If you have high expenses due to poor health, low morale, unhealthy environments, toxic cultures, and/or a lack of good training, then the chances of seeing a massive return on investment (ROI), even on the most basic changes, will be substantial. That is because you have a tremendous amount of investment in being unhealthy.
If you have a great culture, a healthy environment, high morale, proper training, and better physical health, then the ROI will be substantially less. Why? Because you have avoided the costs of an unhealthy life. The impact of cultivating and sustaining an environment that is conducive to the ability for people to function at their most optimal levels will impact your life, your wallet, and the productivity of society.
To evolve means we must advocate for higher standards. Many saw this during the National Wellness Conference and we also see it in NWI’s courses and workshops. Let’s Community Better!!! To do so requires some simple standards:
- A desire to help ourselves and others to be at our best,
- Demanding a higher level of professional standards from everyone in the industry.
- Looking beyond individual health and elevating our standards to driving inclusive cultures of well-being for all.
- Acting both multidimensionally and multiculturally.
- Hiring and training the right professionals to conduct the work.
- Scaling our work by training influencers, navigators, and champions to help advance the initiative to larger spheres of influence.
- Having the right tools, programs, and services that are selected by properly trained leaders who know what will work with the audiences that are being asked to shift mindsets, behaviors, and practices.
- Moving away from siloed programming and “wellness of the month” messaging.
Successful wellness practitioners look beyond clinical treatments and outcomes, and siloed thinking. Wellness is rapidly changing with all the societal shifts, and the communities and workplaces that evolve their strategies toward inclusive cultures of well-being for all will be the ones who will win the talent battle over where people live, work, learn, play, and reflect. To do so takes a higher level of thinking, planning, and doing.
The speakers at the National Wellness Conference and the sponsors and exhibitors all agree that it is time to evolve the wellness standards of practice. These professional standards go beyond claiming that programs must be evidence-based and affect health care costs. Just because a program is evidence-based does not mean it will work. To truly affect the health and well-being of society requires that we spend time and budgets where proven positive impact will occur, and we can control the circumstances. This is where the evolution of wellness must begin, and that evolution requires advocacy for generating more time and resources dedicated to the Social Determinants of Health that are outside of the medical model. This includes siloed programming. For example, the best mental health strategies must incorporate social connection and physical activity, along with emotional support counseling. Society has a nutrition problem, but the problem is primarily an education and distribution issue and not a treatment issue.
So, as we move into the second half of 2023, I urge you to review your strategy for cultivating a culture of inclusive well-being for all. Understand what you can and cannot control. Look at where you are spending your budget and determine if that is the right plan. Do not be afraid to reallocate budget dollars to try something. Also, do not be afraid to stop doing something that is not working. Remind yourself that wellness of the month programs might raise awareness but is not a sustainable plan. Get your leaders trained and ensure they have influencers, navigators, and champions available. It takes more than one person to succeed. Finally, let NWI know what policies, procedures, and gaps are hurting your ability to drive your outcomes. Together, we can work to make that change happen.
Finally, know that NWI is here to support your work, provide advisory services to you through our global network, and advocate for higher levels of standards, so we can help everyone, everywhere live their best life!
It is good to be well!