Health risk assessments can build a happier, healthier workforce.
English churchman and historian Thomas Fuller is remembered particularly for his writings. Although he died at the ripe old age of 53—not bad for a man of the 1600s—he left us with a peculiar, yet poignant quote: “Health is not valued till sickness comes.”
What Is an HRA?
A health risk assessment (HRA) is a health questionnaire used to provide individuals with an evaluation of their health risks and quality of life. The tool combines a comprehensive questionnaire, a risk calculation or score, and some form of feedback (i.e., face to face with a health advisor or an online report). Its main objectives are to:
- Assess health status;
- Estimate the level of health risk; and
- Inform and provide feedback to participants to motivate behavior change to reduce health risks.
Extensive research has shown that HRAs can be used effectively to:
- Identify health risk factors;
- Predict health-related costs;
- Measure absenteeism and attendance; and
- Evaluate the efficacy and return on investment of health promotion strategies.
“An HRA is a real benefit because it provides a snapshot of your current state of health and resources for ways to show improvement,” notes Michelle Williams, manager of employee health and wellness at UnityPoint Health – Methodist | Proctor. “And it can be a great report card of year-to-year progress.
“What is beneficial is seeing… how programs impact outcomes,” she adds. “The biometrics we do are blood pressure, blood glucose, total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, weight and height for BMI. As an organization, we can see how our population scores in terms of risk, then implement programs that help employees and their spouses work on their risk factors. Employers benefit from the HRA as it gives them a snapshot of their employer group and what areas of focus they should take for programming.”
A Good Place to Start
The benefits of healthy employees are numerous for both the employer and the employee. Reduced absences and a reduction in healthcare expenditures top the list, as happier, healthier employees are less likely to become ill. They also tend to have more energy, which allows them stay more focused in their work, as well as greater self-confidence, which helps build confidence in others around them.
Individuals who take an HRA on their own can experience positive impacts on their attitude and behavioral changes to improve their health, yet it is largely accepted that HRAs are most effective when they are part of a comprehensive health promotion program. While there is concern that self-reported assessment data could be less accurate than a medical screening, studies show that HRAs are dependable and inconsistencies between self-reported information and physician-recorded data are small. While many businesses are knowledgeable about HRAs and have created health risk assessment programs for their employees, many others have not.
Don’t forget: lifestyle choices frequently threaten long-term health. For many people, poor diet, smoking, lack of exercise, and being non-compliant regarding medications and annual check-ups are among the common factors that create a high risk of sickness or premature death. While the awareness of health risks doesn’t force a change in behavior, it is a good place to start. iBi
If you have questions regarding health risk assessments, call (309) 672-4963 or email [email protected].