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STEEVES: Your health is your wealth: taking an evidence-based approach

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Set your priorities for success

From companies to individuals I have always pushed for an evidence-based approach, especially when it comes to health. There is a tendency to just leave it up to chance – maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t but at least the box has been checked.

In organizations, it is one of the only parts of the business this laissez-faire approach is taken. Everything else in the business is analyzed, if it was successful or not. Questions such as what we can do better next time, how much revenue was produced, did our business grow are all asked during business initiatives. For most of the health initiatives, it is just random acts with the hope that it helps.

Individuals are a little better. They will get on a scale when starting a nutrition program or an exercise kick; unfortunately, that is about the extent of it. Engaging beyond that does not get much consideration. With all the time, money and effort put into a plan of lifestyle change for the betterment of our health, we rarely take the time to have an evaluation plan. I am guessing if your son or daughter came home from school with no evidence of evaluation and all the feedback you received was your child saying, “Good, I think,” I am sure you would not be too satisfied. If at the end of the year your boss came and said, “This is not working out” with no notice, no evaluation throughout the year, you would not be happy. Why do we take this approach with our health?

My dad is trying to lose weight. He is an extremely goal-orientated person. This means he is focused on the scale and the time it will take. That is cool and important. What I have tried to also do is have some other evaluation tools. The pain levels from his arthritis, improved sleep quality and quantity, mood, blood pressure and blood profile. I am not trying to fish for success but to create an appreciation of why he is doing this and putting in an evaluation system that reflects that.

I have written before of how being just weight-focused is probably going to lead to failure. Evaluation helps you determine to stay the course or pivot. If after six months nothing is improving, we switch and try the next tactic. If we have four of six factors improving, then we are on the right track and maybe a small adjustment is needed. If there is no evaluation, wrong evaluation or a limited evaluation, you might end up jumping around from strategy to strategy or, worse yet, quit.

Evidence-based is defined as an approach to medicine, education, and other disciplines that emphasizes the practical application of the findings of the best available current research. Let’s all hope our doctor uses an evidence-based approach. Let’s say you, or your organization, is “other disciplines.” There are two factors to consider. What is the research and evidence we are going to use in this approach to maximize the chance of positive results? This can range from employee engagement to a person losing weight. You don’t simply use the same framework another company uses or a plan from your friend, you do your due diligence and find out what is best for you. This takes a bit of work but is well worth it. This part of the process increases the likelihood of success and helps all buy into the plan. When people or groups feel the plan is specific to them, they are more likely to engage and stick with it.

Next is what are the assessment tools you are going to use to evaluate once you start your approach and while it is rolling. This helps with the normalizing of failure. Yes, failure can happen even with all the hard work. The better your ongoing assessment tools are, the better you can right the ship if it gets off course. Having good assessment tools planned at the right times can move you from an emotional response to an analytical one. You become a problem solver when things are not hitting the target rather than getting down on yourself or your plan. You can review the evaluation scores, recalibrate by adjusting the plan and get moving again.

Your health is a bit of work. It takes some effort. Some can afford to have someone look after everything by setting up the program, picking evaluation tools, reviewing them for you and adjusting. Most of us do not have this luxury, we must do the work. It pays off though: happiness goes up, along with productivity and a whole host of other benefits.

I understand putting food on the table is a priority and making a pay cheque is critical. Just keep in mind that what helps keep the pay cheques coming is staying healthy. At the core, your health is truly your or your company’s wealth.

Darren Steeves is the owner of VenduraWellness.com, a company dedicated to improving organizational health one step at a time. 

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