Creating A Culture Of Health At Work

posted by AHIP

on September 17, 2018

Chronic disease, much of it the result of adverse health behaviors (diet, lack of exercise, smoking, etc.), costs our economy $1.3 trillion each year and results in needless suffering and a decline in quality of life for millions of people. If we are to make a dent in those numbers, we have to combine clinical care with behavioral interventions.

Sleep itself is an important healthy behavior, but the rest of our healthy or unhealthy behaviors occur during our waking hours. And for most of us, the majority of our waking hours are spent at work. That’s why health insurance providers are partnering with employers to help make work a healthier place to be.

Workplace wellness can make a big difference. One study found that for every dollar spent on workplace wellness, employers save $3.27 on direct medical costs and $2.73 on costs associated with employees being absent from work.

Experts believe six practices make contribute to successful workplace wellness programs:

  • Use multiple intervention sites in wellness programs
  • Have specific, obtainable target goals
  • Give employees training and tools to create sustainable lifestyle changes
  • Make the program a regular part of the work week
  • Partner with community organizations and create convenience for workers
  • Develop a program that has social and fun aspects

While there are common characteristics, there also is a great deal of experimentation and innovation happening in the design of workplace wellness initiatives.

Some wellness plans focus on increasing physical activity—utilizing tools to help track steps or other forms of physical activity, or encouraging employees to set physical activity goals for themselves. Others focus on ensuring that those with health risks are able to identify their risks and get help managing them, often working with health coaches provided by the health plan. Still, others focus on making sure that primary care is highly accessible, perhaps even located in the workplace, and well utilized by employees. Many health insurance providers incorporate all of these elements in their workplace wellness programs, depending upon the needs of the employer and the makeup of the workforce.

Employee wellness programs are a critical part of the health care landscape and another area where insurance providers are innovating, finding ways to improve the consumer experience and health outcomes, and saving money for everyone.

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