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The Global Wellness Summit—A Special Report

Posted By NWI Member Elisabeth Doehring, Friday, November 3, 2017
Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2017
Global Wellness Summit

From Left to right: Susie Ellis, Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Michael Roizen, Elissa Epel, Ph.D., Louie Schwarzburg, Sue Harmsworth, Dr. Elke Benedetto-Reisch (Medical Dir, Lanserhof) Mindy Grossman (CEO, Weight Watchers), Dr. Paul Limburg & Dr. Richard Carmona 

Well-being leaders descended on Palm Beach for the Eleventh Annual Global Wellness Summit (GWS) in October. This year’s event was held at an iconic 121-year-old landmark, The Breakers. GWS is an international gathering that brings together leaders and visionaries for the purpose of creating and enhancing a positive impact on wellness as well as shaping the future of the global wellness industry. Team collaboration thrives within the daily programs. Trust is a constant at the Summit. 

Held on October 9-11, this year’s invite-only event featured over 600 delegates representing 43 countries. The Breakers proved the perfect host to this year’s event, which included panel-led discussions, general sessions, small group breakout sessions, and dining conversations. 

Sponsored by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), a non-profit 501(c) (3), the leading global research and educational resource for the global wellness industry, the Summit drew attendees and presenters from science, medicine, well-being, research, and other sectors. GWI introduces major industry initiatives and regional events that bring together leaders as they chart the future of wellness. With a mission to empower organizations worldwide by educating public and private sectors about preventative health and wellness, GWI empowers wellness organizations by facilitating collaboration, providing global research and insights, triggering innovation, and advocating for growth and sustainability. 


“Living a Well Life”, the 2017 theme, took on an enhanced meaning for the Summit. The three-day event featured an unprecedented lineup of over 50 speakers. Presenters included Louie Schwartzberg, Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Michael Roizen, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Dean Ornish, former United States Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, and Elissa Epel, PhD.

First day sessions opened with the brilliance of Louie Schwartzberg, founder of Moving Art. Overhead screens offered a stunning display of the movement of flowers at high-speed resolution film. Schwartzberg linked nature as a truism for problem-solving for individual and team performance. In addition to this nature provides a link to a reduction in stress related to death and disease.  A connection to nature provides for faster hospital recovery time, decreases blood pressure and heart rate, lowers the level of stress hormone, and improves short term-memory.

Richard Carmona, MD, 17th Surgeon General of The United States, noted that the United States spends 19% of the gross domestic product on health in his program “The Imperative for a Well life: 75 Percent of the Cost of Chronic Illness is Preventable”. In addition- more than 75 cents in every dollar is spent on preventable diseases that are all caused by lifestyle choices. 

Chris Jordan, Director of Exercise Physiology for Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute hit full stride with “We Don’t Need More Time…We Need More Energy!”.  Jordan supports managing energy and not just time, which is best done by focusing and being in the moment.  He also explained the four dimensions of energy – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual as well as how energy expenditure needs to be backed up with energy recovery. 

Mohommad Gawdat, Chief Business Officer for Google (X), presented “Solve for Happy—Engineering Happiness”. Google is known as a well-being leader and Gawdat presented the case for happiness in all aspects of work and life.

With a culture of caring, The Breakers operates from a familial standpoint and spirit. Denise Bober, VP Human Resources at the Breakers, Garrett Kirk Jr, Board Executive Committee Member, and Paul Leone, CEO, shared the stage with “Health & Well-Being: The Breakers Story”.  The program at The Breakers is one of the best well-being programs in the world, and Bober and team presented the business case for Well-Being, Breakers-style. 

Kirk, Jr. started out with, “Our A Game today is our B game tomorrow. First, we make our people better. When they are good we make them even better. Then we keep going until they are extraordinary. We have to see possibility. An effective workplace wellness program is the toughest challenge for a company today but the most important benefit a company can give its employees.”

Bober started the Workplace Wellness Program project 12 years ago, and credited its success from the get-go to her executive team. 

Leone closed out the program by sharing measured balanced scorecard results. Since the inception of the well-being program, The Breakers has experienced increased team satisfaction, which in turn has generated an increase in customer satisfaction and growth. 

In his presentation “The Plague of the Modern Era is Insanity”, Mehmet Oz, MD, explained that in the 19th century the major plague in the world was infection. Once we entered the 20th century it moved to chronic conditions like heart disease. Now in the 21st century it is the inability of people to be happy. Oz further discussed programs treating addiction, with the world of addiction treatment now a highly profitable business.

Andrew Weil, MD, challenged attendees to make well-being “fashionable” in “How to Really Help People Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices”. While advocating removing fast food restaurants and vending machines from health facilities and changing government food policy, Weil also encouraged people to spend time with those who have the good habits they admire and want for themselves.  Moods are contagious. Weil showed the value in hanging out with happy and positive people to move forward in life.

Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer of the Cleveland Clinic, presented “Living to 160”. Chronic disease management is responsible for 84% of all medical costs and 67% of those costs are in under 65-year-olds, noted Roizen. The major culprits are tobacco, poor food choices and overeating, physical inactivity, and unmanaged stress. Spending on Alzheimer’s Disease is predicted to go from $184 Billion in 2010 to $1,167 Billion in 2050. Healthcare in modern economies is becoming more expensive as we are treating chronic lifestyle diseases instead of implementing programs that prevent or reverse them.

Mary Anne and Thierry Malleret presented “10 Good Reasons to Go for a Walk and Other Wellness Ideas” as they championed daily walking as part of overall well-being. Walking is the path to creativity in the Silicon Valley workplace – witness Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. This fitness form has strong implications for corporate leaders and teams.

Elissa Epel, PhD, discussed telomeres, the ends of DNA strands, which resemble plastic tips at the end of your shoelaces. The longer the telomeres, the more likely a person will enjoy longevity. Telomeres shorten as humans age. DNA and experience of life, known as epigenetics, have a significant impact on the length of telomeres.  

The co-author of the ground-breaking book, The Telomere Effect, Epel discussed adversity versus nurturance. Fear versus love. She also offered insight into creating happiness and purpose with those around us. Telomere health increases with the practice of meditation, and studies show that mind body activities actually boost telomere enzyme activity. 

Wellness Moonshot Initiative 
A global crisis is affecting the world both physically and mentally. Stark reality is that roughly 70% of all deaths each year are a result of preventable diseases (CDC), while the global cost of largely preventable chronic disease could reach $47 trillion by 2030, according to the World Economic Forum. Clearly the GWI has been watching these numbers.

On the opening day of the 2017 GWS a major initiative was launched. Health and wellness leaders united behind the first global commitment to achieve a world free of preventable disease, a Wellness Moonshot that is arguably as urgent as it is massive in scope. Wellness Moonshot was delivered to an enthusiastic overflow crowd at the Eleventh Summit.

GWI Chairman and CEO Susie Ellis said “The time has come to pool our resources—knowledge, access, funding—and use our collective megaphone on the world stage to work towards achieving a world free of preventable disease. Unlike President Kennedy’s famous moonshot to send a man to the moon, where it was clear when the ‘mission was accomplished’ – this moonshot will require not one, but many incremental steps forward for humankind.”
GWI’s initial focus will be on information campaigns to bring global attention to the Wellness Moonshot: from which prevention initiatives are most needed, and where – to educating the world about high-impact global projects that are tackling preventable disease, and to drive new interest and resources to them. In addition, Ellis noted that GWI will catalyze stakeholders from both the private and public sectors to coordinate, collaborate, and commit to the Wellness Moonshot.

Ellis further added, “As each wellness and integrative medical leader came to the stage to offer support and ‘best ways forward’ to achieve the Moonshot, I felt profound excitement and hope. Every one of them has already contributed mightily to a world free of preventable disease – and their work has, for years, been moving the needle. Also as each luminary came to the stage, it was really the first time that I didn’t see them as individuals: as representing Dr. Weil's ideas or Dr. Oz's ideas – or the Cleveland Clinic’s or Mayo Clinic’s – or the US or German perspective. I realized that we were all on the same strong team, and the entire audience was as well. These top wellness experts didn’t ‘lead’ the audience, they were representatives of the audience - where everyone's input is helpful and equal. 
Following the announcement Schwartzberg added, “I was deeply honored to be included in the group announcement. What we need is a new story, a story about Wellness and preventive medicine being the practice and the path of medical care instead of the treatment of disease when doctors are caring for the patient when it’s too late.  As a filmmaker and story-teller I hope to enable my fellow moonshot leaders and doctors to get their story out, about the paradigm shift in consciousness that we need in our healthcare system and in each individual’s worldview.”

According to GWS attendee Fikry Isaac, MD (former Chief Medical Officer of Johnson & Johnson) and previous program presenter, "When I was in the room I immediately sensed excitement –that we were no longer talking about addressing disease but the prevention of disease. Making engagement and setting the bar higher to what should be done. I have full confidence that Moonshot will be a game-changer moving us worldwide from an ill care system to a well-care system.”



Elisabeth A. DoehringElisabeth A. Doehring, PHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, CWWPM, WELCOA Faculty, RYT-200 is an award-winning writer and human resources/well-being professional. She served as Wellness Director for the Alabama State SHRM Council Board and presents keynotes on well-being, resilience, and trust at major universities and benefits events as well as at State HR Conferences, most recently at the HR Florida Annual Conference. Her works appear in books, journals, magazines, and newspapers in the United States and in Europe.  Elisabeth has been a member of NWI since 2012. hrwritedesigns@gmail.com


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