Healthcare American Style: The Unhealthy Truth About Disease Prevention

When it comes to healthcare, the United States must face up to an unhealthy truth: Nearly half of Americans have, or are at risk for, some type of chronic illness. 1 Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is one of the most common illnesses. Even more alarming is the fact that nearly all of this chronic illness is preventable.

Did you know that more than one-third of Americans have MetS — a cluster of conditions that raises their risk for a host of serious medical conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. 2

As health risks rise, so do medical costs. Consider the numbers:

  • Employees with MetS outspend their healthy counterparts each year by more than one and a half times — $5,732 vs. $3,422.3
  • Once an overweight employee with MetS goes on to develop diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and triglycerides, their healthcare costs exceed that of their healthy counterparts by nearly 100%.3
  • For every additional risk factor, costs spike by another 24% on average.3

Disease Prevention Programs Help Employees, Lower Costs

Making lasting changes to improve our health is hard work. Most of us know that habits like smoking, lack of exercise, drinking alcohol to excess, and poor nutrition can lead to chronic illness. But we do them anyway.

Sticking with our doctor’s recommendations is no easy task either. About 50% of patients with long-term drug prescriptions don’t take their medication like they should.  4

If you’re like most employers, finding ways to help your employees improve their health while lowering costs is one of your top priorities. One way to do this is by incorporating a disease prevention program into your benefits offering for at-risk employees.

Studies have shown that workplace health and wellness programs that take a scientific approach to disease prevention and offer employees personalized behavior change interventions to prevent illness can lower a company’s healthcare costs, and also improve worker productivity. 5

In addition, the Affordable Care Act offers new financial incentives for employers to offer workplace health and wellness programs.

All of this has raised employers’ interest in disease prevention programs.

In its most recent annual survey, the National Business Group on Health found that over half of employers said providing workplace health and wellness initiatives was one of their top three most effective tactics to control healthcare costs. Nearly half endorsed disease prevention and management programs. 5

Expanding disease prevention programs for at-risk employees may offer the chance to improve the health of Americans, help to control healthcare spending and turn our unhealthy truth into a healthier one.

What steps is your company taking to prevent disease, improve employee health and control costs? Are they working?

References

  1. Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease
  2. High prevalence of metabolic syndrome found in U.S.
  3. Health care utilization and costs by metabolic syndrome risk factors 
  4. CDC: Medication Adherence
  5. Metabolic Risk Factor Reduction Through A Worksite Health Campaign: A Case Study Design

 

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