AUSTIN, Texas, Aug. 26 /PRNewswire/ — Health care cost and availability is on our nation's political radar, and LoneStart Wellness is proposing a politically attractive and patriotic solution to our national health care crisis. The current epidemic of obesity and inactivity is straining finite health care resources and forcing hard choices on the part of policy-makers, health care providers, federal, state and local agencies, employers, employees and their families.

By promoting what it calls "Viral Wellness," LoneStart is proving that wellness, like illness, can be contagious, and is challenging both political parties and all candidates running for national, state and local office to embrace a practical and patriotic solution to our country's current health care crisis. Jay Seifert, LoneStart co-founder, points out that without any government funding, each of us can play a role in turning the epidemic of obesity and overweight around. He adds that 57 percent of deaths result from chronic disease, and that 80 percent of all chronic disease is caused by three preventable health behaviors — poor nutrition and overeating, physical inactivity and smoking — behaviors each of us has the power to change.

"We are at a point in this country where a national campaign is needed to help people realize that they have the opportunity and the ability to make positive and realistic changes in their daily lifestyle choices," says Seifert. "The solution to our health care crisis is prevention, and that will only happen when at-risk individuals are informed, motivated and challenged with a positive, realistic and forgiving opportunity to change their behavior."

Rebecca Davis, Ph.D., Executive Director, National Cooperative of Health Networks Association, says that effective, affordable employee and community wellness is a real need among their member organizations. "Important benefits accrue for our members' partners when they are able to promote a new 'culture of wellness' among their employees, their families and the communities they serve. We like the fact that LoneStart recognizes that we all have the responsibility and the opportunity to make wellness available, achievable and sustainable."

The concept of Viral Wellness grew out of LoneStart's experience that wellness is contagious. "We came to realize that most of us want to be well, and if we have a reasonable expectation of success, we will make positive changes in our daily choices regarding our health. Once we prove to ourselves we can be successful, we tend to become enthusiastic advocates for the strategy that helped us meet our goals and we "spread" wellness on to family and friends," says Seifert.

As an example of LoneStart's effectiveness, Seifert says that of just the rural and community hospitals that have implemented the LoneStart Wellness strategy, more than 8,000 pounds have been lost and body mass index (BMI) has been reduced from between .5 to more than 6 points.

"For the past three years, LoneStart Wellness has been making a difference in several of our member hospitals. They have demonstrated that people will respond to the opportunity to make positive choices when those choices are based on valid and easy-to-apply behavior modification principles as they work toward establishing long-term behavior change. What started as a grassroots effort has grown into an effective strategy for lasting change based on individual accountability and teamwork," says David Pearson, CEO, Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals. He adds that, "we are all stakeholders in this effort, and together we can turn the epidemic of obesity and inactivity around and reduce our risk for serious chronic illnesses. At the same time, we can effectively reduce our health care costs and the impact those costs have on our economy."

The U.S. spends more than $2 trillion annually on health care, and the annual economic impact on the U.S. economy of the most common chronic diseases has recently been calculated in a study by the Milken Institute to be more than $1 trillion. Seven chronic diseases — cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, pulmonary conditions and mental illness — have a total impact on the economy of $1.3 trillion per year. The Milken study went on to name the most important factor in reducing chronic disease — obesity, which if rates declined could lead to $60 billion less in treatment costs and $254 billion in increased productivity. "That $314 billion is roughly equivalent to federal and state spending on the Medicaid program each year," says Seifert.

Seifert adds that waiting for government intervention to create programs to do what each of us already has the power to change for ourselves, is not a viable option. "By promoting our individual and collective responsibility to change unhealthy behaviors as a personal and patriotic duty, each of us becomes empowered to make our own long term health a priority while at the same time, dramatically reducing the burden currently being placed on our health care system. LoneStart Wellness will continue to demonstrate that with imagination, vision and initiative, a low-cost grassroots effort can move us toward a permanent, new culture of wellness."

About LoneStart

The LoneStart Wellness Initiative is based on the premise that each of us must take personal responsibility to make better nutritional choices and become more physically active. The behavior-based strategy provides participants with the opportunity and tools to make modest yet meaningful changes that lead to long term, sustainable results. Visit their Web site at http://www.lonestartnow.com

SOURCE LoneStart

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