The Good Life

John Hancock teams up with the Friedman School to promote wellness

A good diet is one of the most consequential choices you can make to enjoy a long, healthy life. But it can also be one of the toughest to get right—even though the stakes are so high. Poor diets are the leading cause of death in the United States, killing more people than all other risk factors, including smoking, drinking, and drug use.

Most of us find it difficult to determine which foods are good for you&mash;and which are not. "An expanding world of media pundits, book authors, bloggers, social media, mobile apps, for-profit wellness companies, and food marketers is creating an unfiltered firehose of often conflicting and contradictory messages," says Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts.

Now, through a new collaboration with John Hancock, the Friedman School will help more people get it right. Last year, John Hancock introduced a new approach to life insurance that offers savings and rewards to encourage people to pursue a healthy lifestyle, including walking, exercising, and medical checkups. This year the insurance company expanded the program to include a HealthyFood benefit, allowing policyholders to save money when they purchase heathy foods at more than 16,000 grocery stores nationwide.

Working with John Hancock and the new HealthyFood program, Friedman School researchers will help the insurer's Vitality policyholders make smart dietary choices by providing credible, science-based expertise in health and nutrition, including a free online subscription to the school's flagship monthly newsletter, the Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter.

"John Hancock is collaborating with us because of our focus on real-world impact, one of their main goals as well," says Mozaffarian, a cardiologist. "Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the greatest opportunities and challenges facing society today, and it remains poorly addressed by traditional health care," he says. "We're excited to be part of this initiative to help people make better nutritional choices."

"Over the past year, consumers have embraced the John Hancock Vitality solution," says Michael Doughty, president of John Hancock Insurance. "However, combining physical fitness with good nutrition is even more impactful on your health. That's why we are delighted to be collaborating with the Friedman School, one of the country's leading authorities on nutrition. Now our policyholders will have access to expert information and guidance that will help them adopt healthier eating habits and improve their overall health," he says.

The Friedman School will also reap additional benefits from the collaboration, which renews the company's longstanding commitment to the Tufts Marathon Team, the largest known collegiate marathon program in the United States. The Tufts runners raise funds to support nutrition research and programs at the university, including efforts to stem the childhood obesity epidemic.

Thanks to the Boston Marathon bibs that John Hancock, the marathon's principal sponsor, provided, the Tufts Marathon Team has raised more than $5 million since its inception in 2003. Starting with the 2017 Hopkinton-to-Boston run, John Hancock will increase the number of slots, or bibs, it contributes to the team.

The collaboration will also enable the Friedman School to create new programs, activities, and initiatives with broad social impact, such as school- and workplace-based initiatives.

"I believe all universities, and in particular Tufts and the Friedman School, should be centers for public impact," Mozaffarian says. "To achieve that goal, we need to be more innovative about translating our scholarship and expertise into real-world change."