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Discovery launches the Vitality Institute to lead global thinking on wellness

Press release   •   May 22, 2013 07:14 GMT

Johannesburg, South Africa – May 22, 2013 – Discovery announces the launch of the Vitality Institute in New York, US. The Institute brings together the world’s leading experts and practitioners in wellness, health promotion and disease management in a large-scale collaboration to positively impact public debate around health promotion. Attending the launch were some of the world’s thought leaders on the topics of wellness and health promotion, including Jean-Pierre Rosso, chairperson of the World Economic Forum in the US, Dr Nomonde Xundu, Health Minister at South Africa’s US embassy, Senator William Frist, a heart and lung transplant surgeon and former US Senate Majority Leader, and Adrian Gore, CEO of Discovery.

Adrian Gore, CEO of Discovery explains the motivation for launching the Vitality Institute; “Over the past 16 years, Discovery Vitality has gained significant evidence and experience in strategies and programmes to reverse negative health trends. The success of Vitality in changing behaviour and positively impacting health outcomes have been well documented in various research collaborations. The Vitality Institute now builds on this knowledge and expertise with an important mandate: to place health promotion and disease prevention at the core of future health and economic policy development.”

The launch of the Vitality Institute comes at a time when chronic diseases of lifestyle are severely impacting morbidity and mortality risk globally. The economic costs associated with ill-health and loss of productivity among working age populations continue to soar, placing additional pressure on governments and policymakers to find solutions to the escalating problem. Given the overwhelming evidence that diseases of lifestyle are fundamental to mortality and sickness, and can be controlled, there is a growing global policy movement towards wellness. At the core of healthcare reform, particularly in the US, will be the ability to influence behaviour and improve people’s health, reducing mortality risk and lowering healthcare costs.

With its debut, The Vitality Institute released data that reveals that Americans are, on average, five years older than their chronological age. This dangerous gap in the chronological age of Americans and their risk-adjusted age, or Vitality Age, underscores increasing concern about an aging population and the rising costs of health care in the U.S. This trend is consistent with the findings of the South African Healthy Company Index which established that the Vitality Age for employees of the companies who participated in the survey is on average 6.4 years older than their actual age. The Healthy Company Index is a joint initiative between Discovery Vitality, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Cape Town and Professor Ron Goetzel of Emery University and Wits University conducted amongst 110 South African companies with more than 50 employees in 2012.

Derek Yach, Executive Director of the Vitality Institute explains that a global collaboration is necessary to capitalise on the proven success of wellness programmes such as Vitality; “As a global society, we have made much progress in disease intervention. People are living longer, which is testament to the organised approach that hospitals, pharmacies, governments and biopharmaceutical manufacturers have made in saving lives. It is now time to rally across sectors to model that systemised approach to drive change in health promotion and disease prevention and to drive improved outcomes and reduced costs for individuals, businesses and society. Health promotion and disease prevention must be at the heart of healthcare policies.”

The relevance of the Vitality programme as an innovative health promotion model continues to gain momentum. Vitality is today a world-leading wellness programme with over five million members globally.  Evidence for the efficacy of the programme – in terms of improved clinical outcomes, reduced healthcare costs, increased productivity at work, and improved mortality rates – has been profiled in leading academic journals. The programme has also gained international recognition in leading publications such as The New York Times, The Economist and Harvard Business Review and was cited as a gold standard for wellness programmes at the recent Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum.

The strategic imperatives for Vitality are therefore clear. The first is to evolve the science of Vitality by continuing to develop the clinical efficacy of the program, using the latest thinking on behavioural economics to drive healthier lifestyles; and taking advantage of the innovative advances underway in technology that will lead to more personalised approaches to health promotion and disease prevention. The second is to activate a global debate about the power of prevention. The Vitality Institute is an exciting development that coalesces and drives both imperatives. Its aim is to steer thought leadership, national debate and collaboration across sectors on ways to positively influence health risks, and generate research-based evidence and solutions for healthier lives, reduced healthcare costs, and workplace economic gains. In addition, the Institute will house a commission of leading thinkers and practitioners in wellness, health promotion and disease management, who will combine their networks and resources towards the prevention of chronic diseases.

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About the Vitality Institute Commission

The Vitality Institute Commission advocates that health promotion and disease prevention must be at the heart of health care policies and actions. It highlights the value that innovations in science and technology, and in business models and partnering and collaboration, will bring to achieving better global health.

About Discovery

Discovery is an authorised financial services provider. Discovery operates in the healthcare and life insurance markets in South Africa, the United Kingdom and China, as well as the long-term savings and investment market, and short-term insurance market in South Africa. Vitality, Discovery’s wellness program, is the world’s largest scientific, incentive- based wellness solution. It provides individual and corporate wellness initiatives in South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and China. Discovery has demonstrated the ability to improve health and reduce costs in South Africa for over 16 years. The global Vitality membership base now exceeds five million lives. The company’s core purpose is to make people healthier, and to enhance and protect their lives.

 About The Vitality Group

The Vitality Group is a member of Discovery Limited. Vitality wellness programs serve more than five million members worldwide at companies in a wide range of sizes and industry categories, improving individuals’ health and wellbeing as well as employers’ bottom lines. With a foundation based on actuarial science and behavioral economic theory, Vitality encourages changes in lifestyle that reduce healthcare costs, both in the short run and long term, by rewarding members for addressing their specific health issues.

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