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Global Wellness Summit 2018 - Day 1
06 October, 2018

Global Wellness Summit 2018 - Day 1

06 October, 2018

Technogym Village, Cesena, Italy.

As has become my custom at Global Wellness Summits, I take time at the end of each day to write up a summary of the content presented, as taken in through my own eyes and ears. I then share this with anyone who wishes to read. If you are one of those, I hope you enjoy my perspectives on today’s presentations.

As is customary at the Global Wellness Summit, artist and film maker Louie Schwartzberg opened proceedings with a wonderful talk and accompanying masterful videos covering the topic of love – as he calls it, The Secret Sause. “It is through Love” he says, “That we get to experience the Divine.”

He gave a beautiful example of the Bumble Bee, pollenating the flowers of the Tomato and Eggplant vines. The Bee hovers by the male flower, with a wingbeat speed of 440 beats per second, creating a vibration the same as the musical note A, the note by which an Orchestra tunes itself prior to a concert performance.

Louie talked bi Biophilia, (according to a theory of the biologist E. O. Wilson) an innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world. We are hardwired to love nature, yet we create lives in which we distance ourselves from it.

He went on to talk of the Feminine side of nature being the real story of life. He talked of the Mother Tree and how she shields her offspring, communicating and sharing nutrients by the incredible mushroom mycelium, mother nature’s internet and deepest communication channel.

As he continued to explore this topic of love, Louie advised that forgiveness is one of the highest forms of love. He also talked about the power of loving memories He left us with the message that Biophilic Design is crucial to our capacity to thrive and that we should bring nature back into our lives.

In his opening address as Co-Chair for the conference, Tony De Leede talked of Roman Bath Houses from 2000 years or more ago being the 1st known examples of a culture practicing wellness. It was an apt point to make, given the venue for the event.

Hosted by Technogym, the giant Italian Fitness Equipment Manufacturer, the event is actually being staged at Technogym Village in Cesena, in the heard of Italy’s famed Emilia Romagna Wellness Valley.

We then heard from the wonderful Nerio Alessandri, founder and Chief Executive of Technogym. Inspired by a stark reality that his ancestors walked up to 30 kilometres every day, and now people walked less than two, at the age of 22 in 1983 he left his job and began constructing gym equipment in his garage, with a vision of helping people become active again.

Now his company employs 2,300 people, turns over 650 million Euros, and through its international agents and logistics systems, employs around 5000 people. Over lunch I shared with him my experiences of buying from Ripcurl and Quiksilver back in the 1970’s from sheds in Torquay.

He is an amazing man. He shared that we are on a social mission, contributing to people’s lives and we are the luckiest people on earth. He said that people were conceived to move and that the food we eat should just be fuel for that. But we have it the long way round.

He raised a laugh when he said that we “Risk dying for an excess of rest.” He went on to say that a much more active, health motivated lifestyle will bring sustainability to the world. Exercise as medicine is a most powerful drug with only positive side effects.

He talked of the power of all of life’s intangibles: being exposed to nature, friends, aspirations, simple eating and the thrill of creating, all go hand in hand to create a well and happy life.

He called for our collective to replicate Wellness Valleys across the world and begin a stream of living that will inspire and attract people who want to be part of it. He said that Technogym is the Hub of this Wellness Valley and that each subsequent valley needs a hub, and that hub could well be a hospital or a recreational facility if its primary goal was holistic wellness. He called for us to create a legacy.

We were then treated to a presentation by Catherine Johnson and Ophelia Yeung, economists who do a great deal of research into Wellness and the “Wellness Economy”. Back in 2015 we were told the Wellness Economy is worth $US3.7 trillion. Now we are told it is worth $US4.2 trillion. The break-up is as follows:

  • Traditional and Complementary Medicine                                                   $  360 billion
  • Preventative and Personalised Medicine & Public Health                              $  575 billion
  • Wellness Real Estate                                                                                $  134 billion
  • Healthy Eating, Nutrition and Weight Loss                                                  $  702 billion
  • Workplace Wellness                                                                                  $    48 billion
  • Wellness Tourism                                                                                     $  693 billion
  • Fitness, Mind and Body                                                                             $  595 billion
  • Thermal and Mineral Springs                                                                    $    56 billion
  • Spa Economy                                                                                          $  119 billion
  • Personal care, Beauty and Aging                                                              $1,083 billion

The viewpoint of the presentation seemed to be that this is a marvellous thing. But I ask the question, “How could that be?” Expenditure on disease care in the USA alone is over $US3 trillion annually. The Us spends 19% of GDP on “Healthcare” and 75 to 80% of that is spent treating preventable diseases.

The reality, I feel, is that this figure is way too low. We are still failing to inspire people to want to take care of themselves, to want to become personally responsible for their own health and wellbeing. And I believe that is partially because all the industries above are trying to grow without “pissing off” the powerhouse that is Western Medicine with Big Pharma sitting behind it. We need more disruptors.

The Wellness Industry represents 5.3% of Global Economic Output. One interesting statistic delivered was that the Spa Industry is growing at double the rate of GDP. This doesn’t surprise me as wealth in the world grows, and stress rises with that wealth, more people will seek out ways to be pampered. But is it something that is actually changing the world or simply responding to it?

There is no doubt some great work being done. The real wins seem to be coming where companies, groups and event municipalities are working to create a Wellness Ecosystem, an environment that promotes Wellbeing. These are the efforts that bring new people across the line.

For most people in the western world, sadly, their favourite pastime is sitting on the sofa, eating, drinking and watching TV.

Then we heard from Dr Ranieri Guerra from the World Health Organisation - WHO. He shared that the WHO is involved in the daily fight for survival and are the invisible guardians of humanity. Their efforts range from reducing the consumption of junk food, to bringing fresh water and sanitation to third world communities. He reported that the WHO first looked at Wellness in 1958.

He said that there are currently 1 Billion people on the planet with no access to a health service. He also reported that sustainability data was of a poor quality and the WHO continues to struggle with the reliability of this data. They measure their success by a Healthy Life Index, Longevity and Quality of Life for people.

He raised a bizarre statistic that left me wondering about many things in Australia and across the world. Since I have been in Italy, I have been blown away by the number of people who smoke. It’s like Australia 40 years ago. He said that the Italian Government raised $11 billion in smoking taxes and spent $25 billion treating smoking related disease.

He also raised that the WHO is working to halt the rise in childhood obesity and reduce the number of kids who have insufficient physical activity. He said that physical inactivity ahs been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. IT has been identified as the primary cause of 21-25% of breast and colon cancers, 27% of diabetes and 30% of ischemic heart disease. The global annual costs is estimated to be $54 billion.

He said that in most countries, The Health Sector is paying the bills for other sectors.

Then we stepped into the Blue Zone, with Giovanni Marlo Ps, PhD MD. What a wonderful man. An Angel for our times. He was inspired by his own curiosity as his amazing uncle, Pasquale Frasconi, lived to the bright old age of 110.

He has spent his life researching cultures with extraordinary longevity. As he examined an amazing area in Sardinia in Italy, he joined the numbers on his map with pends. It just so happens that the areas where the longevity was great were connected with a blue pen, and he began referring to them as blue zones. Now, the term has come to describe these fascinating areas on the global map where people seem to live a very long life, with very little disease.

From their research, the concluded that Genetics are no more than about 25% of the cause. The rest is lifestyle.

In this area of Sardinia, a feature of the blue zone is that people live further from work and must walk a lot. The stand out group were the shepherds who also had to walk up slopes every day. I also wonder what impact their responsibility and care for their flock may have played in their longevity.

So this occupational physical activity is a significant factor. He showed that in Sardinia, the diet in the Blue Zones was not a significant factor when compared to other parts of Sardinia.

                                               Blue Zone                  Non-Blue Zone

Protein                                  19%                                        17%

Fat                                          19%                                        14%

Carbohydrate                        62%                                        69%

Their major source of Carbohydrate is a traditional sour dough bread. They only ate meat about 5 times per month and wine consumption among men averaged 79 litres per year.

We then heard from Dan Buettner who has taken Dr Pes work and expanded on this research into the Blue Zones. He had amazing tales to tell.

He told a great story of a Greek Man who had been living in Detroit and was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. So, he decided to move back to his home in Ikaria, a blue zone in Greece and set about planting vines he knew he would never see bear fruit. He lived another 40 years and still lives. When asked about the cancer he said he went back to Detroit for a check up but all his Doctors were dead.

Other Blue Zones are Loma Linda in California, where a community of 7th Day Adventists continue to follow a simple lifestyle that involves all of the elements of longevity. He had some fun stories of amazing people, still working well into the 90’s.

He talked of Okinawa in Japan where the world’s oldest living women reside. These women have the longest, disability free life expectancy. Their main foods are Purple Sweet Potato, Tofu and Tumeric. They also keep a close group of friends with whom they meet every night. He showed a photo of 7 women who had been friends for 97 years, since they started school, and the met nightly to talk, laugh, drink saki and support each other.

Here is a stunning statistic. From their research, they have derived that loneliness is the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Another Blue Zone is Nicoya in Costa Rica where people live primarily on corn, beans and squash.

The common thread from the Blue Zones includes:

 A lifestyle that requires physical activity, especially walking

  • 90 to 100% plant based diet
  • 65% carbohydrates
  • Grains, Greens, Tubers, Nuts and greens
  • Meat less than 5 times per month
  • Fish less than 3 times per week
  • No cow dairy food
  • Water, Tea, Coffee and Wine

They also have a good positive outlook and a sense of purpose and supported by close connections to family and life long friends. They Belong to the right tribe.

I then attended a Panel Discussion hosted by Dr Kenneth Pelletier, looking at Corporate and workplace Wellness. He showed some stunning statistics. In the US, the cost of Health care averages $5,000 per person. In Greece it averages $500 per person, yet Greece outdoes the US on all indicators.

Currently in the US, the average Fortune 500 company is spending 75-80% of corporate profit on Health Care. The biggest challenge for CEO’s is Health Care.

It has been shown that there are very large returns for companies when they do the exercise to monetise things like improving Workplace Culture, Engagement, Productivity and Recruitment.

A startling piece of data is that if you invest in a company, you are likely to get a 250% better return if that company has an Employee Wellness program. Now there may be many reasons for this, but one reason is that it is a sign of a well-run company.

Some of the panelists raised some interesting points:

·     The number one indicator as to whether people are thriving or not is their level of social connection.

·     In Latin America and Canada, assessment of a program is often based on moral, whereas often in the US, assessment is being based on how much facilities are being used.

·     Training the companies leaders in Wellness helps to expand and support programs.

·     A University program had great success when they trained their managers to be able to communicate better with their staff. This resulted in a 14% drop in Absenteeism.

·     Programs seemed to have a significant impact when the Staff member’s spouse was invited to join in.

Professor Gerry Bodeker delivered a session on Mental wellness and I missed most of it due to a previous session going a bit over. But I caught the last of it and he was talking about the documented profound impact connection with nature has in easing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

He also talked of the profound power of a sense of purpose in reducing mental illness.

I then attended a session delivered by Dr Sergio Pecorelli and he talked at length about the first 1000 days of a Human Beings Life. This 1000 days, which includes the 180 days preconception, accounts for 70% of an individual’s life. Of course, we do not know when these 180 days preconception commence. So this calls for a high level of personal responsibility for personal wellbeing, all the time.

He talked of how Inflammation in the body is the cause of Non Communicable Diseases. It is the number one cause of the accelerated aging process.

As inflammation becomes chronic, we can reach for a pharmacological solution, which does not change the things causing the inflammation, or we can reach for a wellness solution.

He talked about the factors leading to inflammation being: Diets, poor Microbiome health, pollutants, low physical activity, chemical stressors, non-chemical stressors, behavioural factors and hormonal factors.

He talked about the impact of inflammation and aging and called it “inflammaging”, which is a culprit in the cause of most of the modern Non Communicable Diseases (NCD’s) we see today.

HE shared that 5% of the World is living in a Wellness Paradigm and experiencing a high level of wellness, whilst 52% of the world are caught up in a treatment paradigm and experiencing premature death.

He presented the idea of bringing together precision wellness with precision medicine to help people treat their inflammation and resulting diseases and get themselves back onto the road to wellness. The idea has a lot of merit.

What keeps coming up, time and again, is the power of social networks.

From my perspective, people in modern societies are working more and more. Their workplace becomes their Social Network. Some employers make socialisation difficult. But what concerns me more is that when people lose their job, they are also losing their social network.

We then went to an extended presentation from Dan Buettner about the work his company is doing to transform societies in America, into environments that nurture wellness. I will summarise some of it here, but I truly recommend buying his book, The Blue Zones.

Following are some points presented:

  •  Most campaigns don’t work. Within 3 years, people are back to where they started and wellness levels return to pre campaign levels.
  • He found a place called North Karelia which had the worst rate of Coronary Heart Disease in the world. Working with Dr Geoffrey Rowe, they created a program that addressed the entire community, not just the high risk groups.
  • They made small but significant changes over time including adding one more fruit or veg per day, changing their cattle breed to reduce the fat in the milk, taking out 38% of the fat from local sausages and replacing it with mushroom filler ad along with some other subtle changes, brought down the CV disease rate by 80% and Gastro Intestinal cancers by 60%.
  • They looked at a person’s Life Radius, which tends to be an area with a radius of 30 kilometres. The CDC advised that the best way to change things is using policy.
  • If you live in an area where there are 6 or more fast food restaurants, obesity rates are 40% higher than if there were just three.
  • If there is a Billboard nearby advertising fast food, obesity rates are 5% higher.
  • Taking public transport as opposed to driving reduces risk.
  • The key they found is to reshape the social environment and bring people together as a matter of course through their daily movement.


He shared that people need a sense of purpose. The average Westerner:

  • Wakes up tired
  • Cooks and awful breakfast
  • Works 8-9 hours
  • More than 70% hate their job
  • Have a convenient dinner – often microwaved
  • Watch 4.5 hours of TV
  • Totally unhappy.
  • Identify people’s sense of purpose.
  • People who volunteer have much lower health care costs
  • Altruism is as addictive as sugar. And crack cocaine

 Some of the success of their projects have included:

  •  Adding more sidewalks to more effectively connect areas of towns
  • Turn community lawns into Vegetable Gardens that people could rent. People socialize here too.
  • Blue Zones in Supermarkets
  • Stop all eating in corridors and classrooms at schools – which is where all the chips and things get eaten.
  • Set up social groups for things like plant based pot luck dinners, walking groups and purpose groups.
  • Stunning results with a 3,2 year increasing in life expectancy and a significant weight loss across the community.
  • Smoking rates dropped 17% and Obesity 15%.

At the start of a project they step back and take a look at the environment and ask civic leaders questions like, “Is this somewhere you want to walk?” Restructuring included creating safe routes to school so that kids could walk to and from school each day.

In school canteens, they put the fruit and vegetables at the start of the lunch line and kids naturally selected more of these. They created a 300 metre zone around schools where no junk food advertising was allowed.

In a project in Fort Worth, Texas, they banned smoking inside and outside restaurants. This met resistance and restauranteurs were afraid people would not come. In fact, their businesses grew, and smoking rates dropped 13%. Obesity dropped by 7.2% and quality of life indexes improved.

The project saved $250 million per annum in projected health care costs.

The lessons they learned included:

  • Start with places that are ready to make change.
  • Rigorous measurement first.
  • Harness all local efforts under one banner
  • Deploy a well trained team
  • Focus on long term changes. Create an Operating System, not a program.
  • Orchestrate a Comprehensive “Perfect Storm”
  • Minimum 3-5 year time line

 The current system doesn’t work. US spends $3.7 Trillion on health care.

1/3 of Adults are diabetic or pre-diabetic and 2/3 are overweight

 84% of all medical costs are explained by

  • Physical Inactivity
  • Food choices
  • Portion Size
  • Tobacco
  • Un-managed Stress

Nobody in the current system makes money if you are well.


All credit for this article must go to the author of this document Mr. John Toomey

Keynotes, Huffington Post Columnist,

Fatigue Prevention Speaker, Author,

Wellness Thoughtleader,

Licensed Avatar® Master