Inside Track

An Ounce of Prevention

An Ounce of Prevention

By Eric P. Harding

Just before this issue went to press, my kids had their yearly health physicals. These annual rites offer talking points for parents—“Elliott is still 90th percentile for height!”—but some trepidation for the youngsters. Because in the back of their minds, while they’re answering the nice doctor’s questions about hobbies and diet, they’re worried about the possibility of that painful pinch—the shot.

This year, only our rising kindergartner Wallace had to get poked, to ward off chicken pox. Though he knew it would only sting for a moment, he was understandably nervous; the concept of undergoing minor pain now to prevent major sickness later is perhaps more abstract than an almost-5-year-old can be expected to grapple with easily. Still, I’m happy to report that the ordeal came with only minimal tears. A supportive big brother (and the promise of ice cream afterward) does wonders for one’s bravery.

This issue’s features are all concerned with the steps we take to protect, measure, and promote health in various aspects of our lives.

In our cover story, “A Policy for Fluffy” (page 16), Michael G. Malloy investigates the small but growing niche market of pet health insurance. From virtually nonexistent in the U.S. about 10 years ago, pet health insurance has grown into a billion-dollar industry, and many observers believe that number could quadruple in the next 10 years or so. What does that potential growth mean for pet owners, regulators, insurers—and actuaries?

For pets and humans alike, checkups and inoculations are a part of life—including the annual flu shot. Just in time for the beginning of flu season, our second feature this issue, “Flu Review” (page 26), takes a close look at the history and background of influenza risk, how actuaries play a role in assessing downstream financial impacts from widespread outbreaks, and offers a few sources and tips for finding the signal amid all the noise.

In our final feature, “Taking Aim” (page 30), Academy Vice President for Professionalism D. Joeff Williams lays out some of the lessons learned in promoting actuarial professionalism as an everyday practice. The Academy’s Council on Professionalism has taken an active role in engaging actuarial leaders across the country, and Williams shares several of the insights he’s gleaned about how they foster a culture of professionalism in their organizations—a culture that helps contribute to a healthy, self-governing profession.

I hope you enjoy this issue—and that you and yours are happy and healthy till next time.

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