By: Nina Taggart, M.D.
December 16, 2011
The facts are alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 65 percent of adults do not exercise regularly; half of all adults have high cholesterol; one out of every four has high blood pressure; and 30 percent are obese. These conditions contribute to chronic illnesses, which account for 75 percent of all health care costs in the U.S.
Since many adults spend most of their waking hours at work, employers are in a unique position to empower their employees to adopt healthier lifestyles.
Being proactive about one’s health enhances quality of life. Individuals who choose to eat healthy foods, get regular exercise and have the right medical screenings tend to be healthier, live longer and report being happier. And since employees are usually an organization’s most valuable resource, having healthier employees benefits the company’s bottom line.
Government and industry statistics show that for every $1 invested in workplace wellness, companies save from $3 to $5 on health care and absenteeism costs within the first three years. And according to the CDC, companies with wellness programs also tend to attract more talented employees, have better employee morale and experience less turnover.
Starting a workplace wellness program doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. With senior management’s support, the first step is usually the creation of an employee wellness team to engage workers and encourage ideas from all levels in the organization.
Programs can begin simply, by switching to healthier food choices in vending machines and at staff meetings, starting walk-at-lunch groups to get people moving, and bringing in outside speakers for presentations on various health topics.
Once the program is underway, organizations can add options such as offering employee health assessments, discounted gym memberships, on-site health fairs, free flu vaccinations and fun fitness competitions. Organizations may want to add incentives such as rewards for losing weight, completing medical screenings, or participating in other health-related programs.
Because we understand the value of education and prevention, many insurers like Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BCNEPA) offer support for workplace wellness activities. At BCNEPA, our Blue Health Solutions program is available to all covered employers to help their employees manage chronic conditions, quit smoking or simply start down the path of a healthier lifestyle.
As we begin a new year, local employers should consider making an investment in their employees – and in their own bottom line – by implementing a workplace wellness program in 2012.
For more information about workplace wellness, visit the U.S. Workplace Wellness Alliance at http://www.uswwa.org/ or Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s website at https://www.bcnepa.com/Wellness/Employers.aspx.
Nina Taggart, M.D., is an ophthalmologist with Eye Care Specialists of NEPA, and is Corporate Medical Director for Blue Health Solutions.