The goal of a worksite wellness program is simple: prevent illness by caring for health up front. Both the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Task Force on Community Preventive Services support the creation of these programs.
It should come as no surprise that healthy employees boost a companys bottom line. They experience less sick time, take fewer disability days and suffer lesser risk of premature deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 75% of employers' health care costs and productivity losses are related to employee lifestyle choices. And a $1 investment in wellness programs saves $3 in health care costs, according to the Wellness Council of America.
It is good business for companies to help provide employees with the information and tools that will empower them to adopt healthy behaviors. However, according to a 2006 study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, less than 20% of U.S. employers offer lifestyle modification services. Even more surprisingly, just four percent offer tobacco cessation services.
The idea of the employer as a health coach to employees has even been reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The first step for any employer in designing a worksite wellness program with the result of controlling cost is to evaluate their workforces risk factors. By identifying risk factors employers can implement strategies to hinder employees from becomes high risk health care users particularly middle risk employees (employees that have the potential to cost the company more of their health grows progressively worse).
The CDC cited four risk behaviors for chronic diseases highest on their list of actual causes of death in the year 2000: tobacco use (435,000 deaths per year), physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, and overweight/obesity (the latter three together accounts for 365,000 deaths per year.
The United States Preventable Services Task Force recommended participation in screenings and follow-up treatments for the following seven chronic health problems: obesity, hypertension, lipid disorders, tobacco use, and cervical, breast, and colorectal cancer.
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