Fitness Buff Parlays His Experiences Into Newsletter

March 01, 1992|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,Contributing writer

At 47, Rick Vullo exercises at least four times a week. A runner, healso competes in races, qualifying even for the Boston Marathon. He says he enjoys a "healthy lifestyle." When he's not practicing good health and fitness, he's reading about it -- 15 magazines a month, to be precise.

If that wasn't enough, he also writes about health andfitness. Vullo is founder of Healthy Decisions, a newsletter that targets business people.

The Bel Air resident is the editor and the only writer. He orchestrates this one-man-show from an office in his home.

Healthy Decisions began as a sideline for Vullo while he was working as a salesmanfor an office forms company. Now it's his full-time occupation.

In its third year, the four-page monthly has grown to a circulation ofabout 12,000, up from an initial 2,000.

The bulk of Vullo's subscribers are small companies, some with as few as three or four employees. But he also has big firms such as Chase Bank, Texas Instruments and Becton Dickinson.

A typical issue covers tips on nutrition and heart disease prevention. The magazine offers only medical information for readers -- not medical advice, say Vullo.

Vullo says that while he's enjoying the venture, the recession has made the start-up tough at times.

Production costs average $1,000 monthly, he says, and his wife of 11 years, Linda, has to work. She has her own business,making gift baskets.

A subscription to Healthy Decisions costs $16 a year, but businesses who buy in bulk can receive the magazine fora reduced price.

Vullo gets his medical advice from a group of experts.

Among Vullo's advisers are Dr. Scott Rifkin, a physician inprivate practice; Colleen Pierre, who works at Union Memorial Hospital's sports medicine clinic and writes a health column for The Sun; Dr. Peggy Vaughan, president of Preventive Medical Services; John Verleger, clinical director of the Family Counseling Center of Baltimore,and Dr. Craig Slotke, a dentist at Westwood Dental Associates in White Marsh. The advisers read all articles for content accuracy before publication.

Rifkin and Pierre are co-owners of the newsletter business. The other advisers receive free copies of the newsletter as compensation .

Vullo says the consultants haven't constricted his writing.

"I write about what I want to," Vullo said. "Over the yearsI have built up a library of texts. There's plenty of information available. I select things that are current, topical and interesting. If I want to write about vitamin B-12 one month, I will."

Vullo's interest in health issues was piqued in 1985.

"I was overweight andout of shape," Vullo recalled. Back then, he stood 5 feet 8 and weighed 170. "Most of that was around the middle," he said. "New Year's Eve I caught myself in a full-length mirror."

That's when he decided to do something.

"I started to eat better and to exercise. I took up running and started entering races," he said. Ten months later, he was a trim 140 and completed his first marathon.

It was this pursuit of a healthier lifestyle that led Vullo to start up the newsletter. "The more I learned about health, the more I realized how littlewe do for ourselves. There isn't a lack of information. It's just that nobody really understands," he said.

With a mission to inform the business owners about the advantages to themselves and worker productivity if they lead healthier lifestyles, Vullo set out to develop a prototype for the first issue of Healthy Decisions. Then he went tolocal businesses to sell them on the newsletter, which averages fourpages. He convinced businesses that employees who read the publication would become informed about their health and become healthier employees. With healthier employees, businesses might be able to cut their health-care and insurance costs and see fewer employees on sick leave.

Betty McMillan, personnel assistant at the Bank of Glen Burnie, a subscriber of the newsletter, says employees enjoy the publication.

"They'll read the magazine while at work," she said. "It's not something they'll take home and put on the coffee table, but they do read it."

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