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Savvy Businesspeople Investigate Preventative Care Services for Their Employees

The word “cliché” often carries a negative connotation as something tired and worn-out. On the other hand, many often-used sayings become clichés precisely because they happen to be true.

Here’s one of them: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This well-worn phrase actually has an important application to today’s modern workplace — and all the more so as the workforce ages and more health issues arise.

Statistics offer a note of caution for both workers and their employers. According to a study by UnumProvident:

  • Medical costs rise an estimated 25 percent from age 40 to 50.
  • Medical costs rise an estimated 35 percent from age 50 to 60.
  • However, age is less of a factor in healthcare costs than the presence of risk factors, such as smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes.
  • High-risk 40- to 60-year-old workers incur two to three times higher medical costs than low-risk workers in the same age group.

Of course, employers feel the impact of these rising costs through their health insurance plans. But there’s a more practical, day-to-day impact, too. Obviously, healthy employees are productive employees — furthermore, they’re present and on the job. By contrast, employees in poorer health will miss more workdays, and won’t always be at their best when they are working.

These realities lead to a couple of simple questions: Why wait for health problems to occur among your employees before responding? Why not instead create a situation where they’re less likely to occur in the first place?

That’s the rationale behind Preventative Care programs, which are becoming more popular among employers who believe in being proactive about their employees’ health. Components of these programs can include:

  • Annual or semi-annual health checkups (some employers reduce employee payroll deductions for health insurance premiums for participants)
  • Information on lifestyle changes that can lessen the likelihood of illnesses or chronic conditions
  • An integrated approach to healthcare that encompasses an employee’s mental and emotional health as well as the physical

On that last note, it’s important to remember that it’s not just physical ailments that can adversely affect your workforce. A Statistical Brief prepared by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality notes that behavioral health conditions affect nearly one of five Americans and lead to healthcare costs of $57 billion a year, which is on par with cancer. That’s why more healthcare entities (including Meridian) are now integrating Behavioral Health and Primary Care.

Companies that have a Workforce Wellness program in place — such as the ones Meridian HealthCare offers or others I described in my February column — already have these tools at their disposal, and they’re enjoying very good results in terms of higher productivity and reduced absenteeism in their workforce.

But it’s not necessary to institute a formal Workforce Wellness program in order to bring some of these benefits to your firm. You can simply make it known that employees will find it advantageous to take steps to improve their overall health.

You might offer certain incentives to employees who promise to get more exercise, say by joining a gym or taking up walking or running. You could sponsor stop smoking programs (several excellent ones are available in our area) or seminars on healthy eating. There are also programs that focus on family relationships, relationships in the workplace, and many others having to do with employees’ day-to-day emotional well-being.

Many health problems are preventable. Employers who are proactive about their employees’ health benefit not just their workforce, but their own bottom line.

Larry Moliterno is CEO of Meridian HealthCare and currently serves as President of the Ohio Alliance of Recovery Providers. Send email to lmoliterno@MeridianCommunityCare.org