Press Releases: Northern California
February 29, 2012
Targeting Chronic Diseases can Lead to a Healthier Bottom Line
An Article by Wade Overgaard, Kaiser Permanente
Given the busy day-to-day activities in the workplace, it’s easy to overlook the importance of tracking the overall health of your workforce. But chronic conditions — including diabetes, asthma and obesity — currently account for more than 75 percent of health care spending in the United States, and that can be an expensive proposition for employers.
How expensive? Studies have shown that chronic conditions can add about $3,600 a year per person to employer health care costs.
Fortunately, many of these chronic conditions can be prevented or more effectively managed by leading healthier lives, and you as employers can play an important role in this effort by taking steps to improve the health of your workforce. Encourage your workers to get routine screenings, promote physical activity in the workplace, and provide healthier options in your vending machines and cafeterias.
Well-structured, evidence-based wellness programs can have a real impact on a company’s bottom line and can help control health care costs for everyone. Focusing on an employee’s total health can lead to a more energetic, productive workforce that can give your company a competitive edge.
HEALTHY WORKFORCE ARTICLES
There are many resources to help employers find ways to get their workforce healthier. For some businesses, the information that can be easily generated from electronic medical records (EMRs) that can help make prevention more of a reality. EMRs can provide aggregated high-level data that gives an overall snapshot of employee health. The businesses must be large enough — 100 employees or more — so that this aggregated data does not reveal personal health information about individual employees.
Those businesses can ask their health care providers and insurers to determine the share of employees who smoke, have high cholesterol or have high blood pressure. With this information, ranked to show which problems are most severe in the workplace, employers can offer targeted health programs and activities aimed at preventing chronic conditions.
If the majority of employees are overweight, it makes sense to offer a wellness program that actively promotes healthier eating. If there are a large number of smokers, an in-house smoking-cessation program would be in order.
Controlling health care costs requires a multi-pronged, integrated effort that goes beyond the medical providers and health insurer trying to prevent chronic diseases, though. Employers also need to stress and consistently reinforce the same healthy lifestyles in the workplace and model good behavior.
You can start small. When eating with employees, order a salad instead of a cheeseburger. With small groups, hold “walking” staff meetings. Even better: Start a walking program to encourage all employees to get more physical exercise (see the benefits of regular walking at www.everybodywalk.org) There’s even a smartphone app to help track those workplace walks.
You can also learn more about how to turn your workplace into a “wellplace” by downloading a free step-by-step guide to customize a wellness program that’s just right for your business at: https://businessnet.kp.org/health/plans/ca/workforcehealth/
About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We serve approximately 8.9 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to www.kp.org/newscenter.