All of Us

Behavioral Healthcare Innovators: Dr. Garry Welch and Colleen A. McGuire

by Mike Critelli, 

Over the past month, the MakeUsWell Network has welcomed Dr. Garry Welch and Colleen McGuire, a married couple who have formed a company called Silver Fern Healthcare. Silver Fern’s mission is to use the best available evidence to identify the psychological and sociological factors that prevent patients from effectively managing their chronic diseases.

They have particularly focused more recently in addressing the root cause of many chronic diseases, the obesity crisis. Obesity not only contributes to chronic diseases, but, as research has demonstrated, it made those with the SARS Cov-2 virus more likely to be hospitalized or die. The inflammation caused by obesity has also been linked to cancer by the CDC because of the faster cell growth required to compensate for insulin resistance.

Like other members of our MakeUsWell Network, Dr. Welch and Ms. McGuire understand that, while medications like Ozempic and other glucagon-like peptide drugs (GLP-1) are breakthroughs in driving weight loss, they will not be effective in the long run without an effective behavior change program. Weight loss through medication does not survive if patients do not engage in processes that make weight-reducing behavior change permanent.

They also understand that behavior change does not occur solely because patients are educated about the elements of nutrition, fitness, sleep and stress management necessary for weight loss. As we learned at Pitney Bowes through our onsite clinics and other health plan outreach programs, the behavior change required for individuals, families and communities depends on permanently modifying daily life routines.

While lower income individuals, families and communities often reside in “food deserts,” communities that have limited, costly, or inconvenient access to healthy foods and beverages, addressing these systemic issues is not enough. Behavior change counseling requires problem-solving to help individuals and families modify daily routines to reduce exposure and susceptibility to unhealthy behaviors and the social and environmental factors that trigger them.  

As someone who has battled weight problems my entire adult life, I am acutely aware of the many subtle factors that cause us to overeat or consume unhealthy beverages. To name a few of these factors:

  • When we are in a hurry to get to work or some other time-sensitive appointment, eating a calorie-dense, sugary food or consuming a sugary beverage is often the lowest cost, most convenient option.

  • The cafes, bakeries, and bagel shops that offer calorie-dense foods and beverages to us price them very low relative to the calories they deliver.

  • We have been socialized from early in our lives to equate eating sugary foods with comfort and celebratory events. We are given large birthday cakes, sugary pies, and cookies as responses to stressful events or rewards for achievement.

  • We associate the big bucket of buttered popcorn and the big cup of soda with the fun experience of watching the newest blockbuster film or the hot dog and the bucket of nachos we consume at a sporting event with a pleasurable experience.

  • For stressed out parents, taking our children to the pizza parlor or the fast food restaurant is the easiest way to get some temporary relief.

  • Anyone traveling in economy class seats on airplanes is being served sugary snacks, even on cross-country flights. The food available at the airports matches the unhealthy foods and beverages we get on the way to work.

  • When we go to dinner or a bar on a weekend night with family and friends, our resistance to overeating is reduced by alcohol consumption.

Altering these deeply-rooted habits is monumentally challenging, but Dr. Welch and Ms. McGuire are also using evidence-based tools to identify motivations and tools to achieve the necessary behavior change.

The MakeUsWell Network has many other individuals tackling or interested in tackling the components of this complex public health problem. But we also are developing an AI platform that, initially, will complement human intelligence in helping guide healthcare professionals in affecting behavior change. Over time, AI will learn faster what works and present marketing strategies and messages from demonstrably trusted sources with the right kinds of financial incentives to accelerate behavior change.

But, at this stage, the work Dr. Welch and Colleen McGuire do every day is a vital addition to what we want to accomplish with the MakeUsWell Network.

The Case For Hope: Jennifer Dickenson

by Mike Critelli, 

Recently, I was honored to meet an exceptionally inspirational person, Jennifer Dickenson. Jennifer is part of a very select group, individuals who have defied the odds and survived a stage 4 metastatic cancer. In 2011, she was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a brain cancer that few people survive for one year and almost none survive five years. She wrote a book that is both inspirational and broadly insightful about what she believes accounts for her success.

She refused to accept the medical consensus that she would die and should “put her affairs in order.” Her logic was simple: if even a few people survive a stage 4 cancer, she wanted to try as much as possible what might work to give her a chance to be an outlier as a long-term survivor. We invited her to join the MakeUsWell Network and give all of you the opportunity to get to know her better. You may be inspired to buy her book, "the Case For Hope," available on

Her story is deeply relevant and well beyond the inspirational impact of someone who beat odds:

  • For all of us, there are forces at work beyond the ability of medical science to understand and harness. Medical science is amazing, but it can only take us so far. Our will to succeed is foundational to everything we can accomplish with or without the engagement of even the top healthcare professionals. As Jennifer put it in her book, “I don’t believe there is a way to discover the path of healing without engaging your will to be well.”

  • In "the Case For Hope," she describes a daily set of living habits that included a complete overhaul of her nutritional habits, virtually eliminating all sugar from her diet. She points out an obvious benefit that few of us understand as a cancer preventive practice: cancer cells thrive on glucose. She also focuses on two other changes that she would consider first among equals in the many changes she made in her life:

    • Her daily practice of Qigong, a Chinese healing technique which combines body movement and deep breathing.

    • Her adoption of a daily prayer routine, which had three simple steps: express gratitude, pray for others, and pray for yourself.

  • She describes her adoption of stress reduction, sleep, meditation and a variety of other techniques linked to healing. Making others realize that what she did can be copied by anyone, even if not diagnosed with cancer.

In short, the message in her book that made us want her to be a member in the MakeUsWell Network is that how she changed her life to be healthier and be kinder to her body and mind, should be adopted by everyone who wants to live a longer, healthier, more enriched life.  

We invite all of you to buy her book, review it, get to know her better, and learn from her.

The Intricate Relationship Between Leadership, the COVID-19 Crisis, and the Burgeoning Influence of AI

by Mike Critelli, 

This article embarks on an exploration of the intricate relationship between leadership, the COVID-19 crisis, and the burgeoning influence of AI 

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the emergence of AI, it's evident that our traditional leadership approaches have fallen short. 

Over the past four years, governmental responses to the pandemic have often exacerbated the crisis rather than mitigating it. Similarly, in grappling with the potential impacts of AI, we risk repeating the same mistakes due to outdated leadership behaviors.

AI to MakeUsWell

by Michael Critelli, CEO MakeUsWell

Hi MakeUsWell Community,

When I started MakeUsWell, my specific initial goal was to help us and the U.S. heal and recover from the pandemic.

Today we are at an inflection point with the two letter acronym, A.I.

I wholeheartedly believe in the power of A.I. to make us well, and to accelerate American society’s overall goodness and greatness.

The only way to get there is through a pragmatic, non-partisan, and rational approach to A.I. We must concurrently consider A.I.’s human factors dispassionately. And with honesty and intellectual rigor.

With that focus in mind, we are introducing Raghavan Muthuregunathan, who is joining our MakeUsWell Network. 

The Role Of Augmented Intelligence At A Time Of Stress

by Mike Critelli

Multiple events remind us about the fragility of peace and safe travels, the risks in our economic environment, and the chronic concerns about extreme weather events during summer months. These combinations create multiple sources of stress.  

On top of all these events, which are reported endlessly because they draw in and retain readers or viewers, is the perceived risk that artificial intelligence will cause many jobs perceived as secure to become obsolete.

The Gallup organization has done a great deal of research on the interconnectedness of various kinds of wellbeing. At the MakeUsWell Network and in our work on outbound marketing communications at MoveFlux, we have built into our algorithms the inter-relatedness of these five categories of wellbeing:

  1. Physical and mental health

  2. Financial wellbeing

  3. Career wellbeing

  4. Environmental wellbeing

  5. Social wellbeing

A positive or negative input to any of these five categories spills over into the others. We understand that the framework for augmented intelligence applied to wellbeing requires human intelligence to understand these linkages.

We have used our MoveFlux brand for our flagship offering to organizations that need generative artificial intelligence to create marketing content. But it has a strong linkage to our MakeUsWell Network, because we and our clients need to understand the sources of stress in the populations to which they are communicating or marketing. We also need to use underlying messages and analytics to defuse that stress.

Our algorithms go far beyond what I will describe here in targeting words, phrases and messages that both acknowledge and reduce stress. How can messages achieve both goals?

  • Explicit acknowledgment that what anyone in the audience experiences is likely to be experienced by many others. Stress decreases when we learn that we are not alone.

  • Recognition that what we are experiencing today is neither completely unique nor qualitatively and quantitatively worse than past eras. We do a poor job teaching history, so we tend to believe that the past is better than the present. This is true in terms of political divisiveness, economic conditions, and even climate-related issues.

  • Reminding our audiences that anger, radicalism and violence is an attribute of a very small part of any population, including ours. Regrettably, the advertising-based media model causes both social and news media to give greater prominence to the words and actions of this unrepresentative part of the population. On a daily basis, we are unlikely to encounter violent people, except in a few pockets in major urban areas.

  • Most importantly, we must remind every audience in the most powerful way we can of President Franklin Roosevelt’s timeless advice in his first radio address during the depths of the Great Depression: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

After the dual threats to our Pitney Bowes business from 9/11 and the anthrax bioterrorism threat, I challenged our leaders and employees to reframe how they thought about these horrific tragedies. I said: “We know and have experienced the negative effects of both of these tragedies. What can we do to protect ourselves and others against their recurrence and get compensated for achieving that protection?” Reframing is a critical psychological coping mechanism.

We welcome your engagement to help us reach out to any organizations willing to take the necessary steps to incorporate generative AI into their outbound messaging to employees, customers, communities and other stakeholders.