Preventative Healthcare: Employee Wellness & Corporate Responsibility

Our current model of healthcare is sick care, and sadly, employers are drowning by following this same path. Health care dollars are usurped from reactive, episodic acute care model, and of course the long term needs and dollars of chronic care. We can find different dollar values thrown around, depending on which of the thousands of costs are being tallied, but suffice it to say chronic care costs, between care and lost productivity hundreds of billions yearly.

The massive opportunity for the health of society and our economy: Preventive healthcare

Leading healthier lives (which is a sweeping statement) and stopping the onset of illness is the holy grail of healthcare transformation and sustainability. It is equally the ultimate investment companies can make – we all agree we are only as strong, resilient and energized as our people. In terms of corporate health, the model of preventive care can be further defined for implementation and precision:

Proactive care solutions: Providing solid, science based knowledge of healthier living, helping employees with implementation, adherence, provides a health centric motivating environment to respect the endless value of health. A proactive approach also ensures that preventive action is taken to intervene well before the onset of symptoms, far before illness. Proactive health should not be confused with diagnostics, which are a part of proactive health, but certainly not the only aspect of proactive process.

Predictive care solutions leverage cutting-edge health technologies and sophisticated gathering of data to not only stratify risk, but even predict risk and intervene even further upstream. This can be done through effective health risk assessments (HRA), metrics and reporting from the proactive tools, predictive care solutions are out there and are a lost opportunity for health when not implemented. With the increased collection of personal health and lifestyle data and improved analytics, we can generate accurate insights earlier. This allows us to anticipate issues, pinpointing where behavioural intervention is needed and provide actions to take before risk factors even arise.

NCD: Non-infectious and non-transmissible diseases that may be caused by genetic or behavioral factors and generally have a slow progression (could have been incubating for years in which hopefully identified and prevented) and long duration. These include cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes. According to the CDC, 80{fb65e7e27c282a02fa0a36039dc4c9383b3a38d5a4237f8adb1f7680a9920255} of chronic illness is lifestyle, behavioral, however, people need to be made aware of what many of these behaviors and exposures are.

According to a study released in 2011 by the World Economic Forum, Harvard School of Public Health “The U.S. Government and Global Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Efforts:

  • NCDs are the leading causes of death and disability globally, killing more than three in five people worldwide and responsible for nearly half of the global burden of disease.
  • Among the leading causes of preventable illness and related disability
  • Cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes account for about 80{fb65e7e27c282a02fa0a36039dc4c9383b3a38d5a4237f8adb1f7680a9920255} of NCD deaths
  • NCDs are responsible for 3.9 million deaths each year in the Region of the Americas, representing 3⁄4 of all deaths.
  • An estimated 200 million people in the Americas are living with NCDs, which has a tremendous impact on their life, well-being, and ability to work. This, in turn, poses major challenges to the economy, the health system and other sectors of society.
  • If modifiable risk factors (behavioral) were eliminated, 80{fb65e7e27c282a02fa0a36039dc4c9383b3a38d5a4237f8adb1f7680a9920255} of all heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes would be prevented and over 40{fb65e7e27c282a02fa0a36039dc4c9383b3a38d5a4237f8adb1f7680a9920255} of cancer would be prevented.
  • The causes of NCDs and their risk factors are largely determined by the social, physical and economic environment. Thus, combating NCDs requires action on the social determinants in a person’s environment, not just healthcare. Creating healthy environments and making healthy choices available and known are critical.

Just a scary stat: Diabetes and Insulin, our master hormone: $245 Billion, Annually. Diabetes is 90{fb65e7e27c282a02fa0a36039dc4c9383b3a38d5a4237f8adb1f7680a9920255} preventable

Conclusion from World Economic Forum study on Non Communicable Diseases:

“Economic policy-makers are naturally concerned about economic growth. The evidence presented in this report indicates that it would be illogical and irresponsible to care about economic growth and simultaneously ignore NCDs. Interventions in this area will undeniably be costly. But inaction is likely to be far more costly.”

Corporate wellness programs are potentially an affordable, very effective way to reduce the economic, personal and social burden of illness. Shifting to a preventive paradigm requires a holistic and employee-centred approach that involves participation and dedication from employers and employees. Follow the hard science. A number of vague studies are released stating that proactive health and wellness programs do not really impact the corporate bottom line. Where this very narrow mentality falls short… what are they measuring? Do they have an accurate scientific means of data collection as to illness prevented? Were they categorizing all corporate wellness initiatives into one lump? What were the measures of adherence? For these studies to deny the impact of preventative health education and implementation, is to deny greater studies lead by global health researchers and organizations… Where is the corporate responsibility?

Providing health information is a start, but only a start. Corporate responsibility reaches to those groups and individuals that they affect: shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees and their families, communities, financiers, society… and of course their own survival. The impact of health is omnipotent.