Creating a Healthy Workforce

In today’s business world, more and more companies are working to promote better employee health because good health is good business too. Healthy employees miss less time at work and have a higher morale which typically translates into lower health care costs for the company. And a well designed employee health program is usually seen as a valuable benefit too, which can reduce employee turnover and be a valuable incentive for recruiting new ones too.

NAMA is committed to working with companies to advance health and wellness awareness through it Balanced for Life initiative, and has collected various resources here to help you create your own program that advances the health of your workforce. These resources will help you protect the health and wellness of your employees, ensuring a brighter future for everyone.

Corporate Health Initiatives: An Overlooked HR Tool Health Care Costs to Employers

Employers have been hit hard by the soaring costs of providing employees with health care benefits. Recent studies indicate that almost 50 percent of corporate profits now go for health care costs versus only 7 percent three decades ago. PricewatershouseCoopers has just released a study commissioned by America’sHealth Insurance Plans that found the overall increase in health insurance premiums was 8.8 percent between 2004 and 2005. The study attributes 27 percent of the increase to general inflation, 43 percent to increased utilization and 30 percent to health care price increases in excess of inflation.The non-medical costs to a company of an unhealthy lifestyle can include:

  • High absenteeism
  • High worker’s compensation
  • High disability claims
  • Unnecessary health service use
  • Excessive medical leave
  • Early medical retirements
  • High life insurance costs
  • Significant productivity loss
  • Excess worker conflict
  • Family disruption
  • Social disruption

Changing Behavior

Employers are actively seeking new ways to reduce health care costs without jeopardizing their ability to attract and retain workers and one significant way to approach this problem is through an employee campaign that may decrease healthcare costs (health insurance premiums, medical claims), reduce absenteeism and increase productivity.

According to Larry Chapman, chairman and co-founder of Summex HealthManagement, illness and injury in the workplace can be reduced by changing the behaviors associated with “modifiable” risk factors. Mr. Chapman says some modifiable “risk factors” targeted by most work site wellness programs include:

Heart Disease: high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, overweight and obesity, lack of exercise.

Automobile Accidents and Injury: non use of seat belts and child restraints, speeding, drinking while driving, cigarette smoking, long distance driving.

Pulmonary or Respiratory Diseases: cigarette smoking, occupational exposures, air pollution exposure, second hand smoke exposure, pollen exposure.

Selected Cancers: cigarette smoking, obesity, low fiber diet, high animal fat intake, lack of self-examination practices, use of smokeless tobacco products, excessive alcohol consumption, promiscuous sexual behavior.

In a recent study, Dr. Marilyn M. Helms, Professor at Dalton State College, found that corporate programs designed to improve the healthcare of employees improved employee morale and productivity and reduced employee turnover. Dr. Helms pointed to a study by the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion suggesting the average cost-to-benefit impact of these programs was a $2 healthcare cost saving for every $1 spent on the programs. She said wellness programs may range from relatively low cost informational efforts to higher cost programs, which may involve a company partnership with a local fitness facility or an on-site fitness center.

To gain the maximum cost containment from a healthcare prospective, says Dr. Helm's, organizations must consider wellness commitments that may include:

  • On-site health care screenings
  • Smoking cessation programs
  • Exercise and weight management programs
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Programs to discourage drug and alcohol use
  • Flu vaccinations
  • Golf leagues
  • Non traditional activities like yoga, meditation and tai chi classes, and others.

The challenge to most organizations today is not whether to offer a wellness program, says Dr. Helms, but how to design and target such programs for maximum long-term effectiveness. The program should be designed to attract and retain key employees and should begin with the needs and preferences of potential end-users.

Download the Seven Steps to Workplace Wellness

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