A recent Hewitt Associates survey of 960 large employers found 95 percent offered some form of health promotion programs, an increase of 7 percent since 1995.
"More employers than ever before favor health promotion and condition management programs because they have the potential to provide cost savings; reduce absenteeism; and improve the welfare of employees, dependents, and retirees," said Camille Haltom, a health care consultant with Hewitt Associates. "Companies are increasingly interested in implementing comprehensive health management strategies that provide some level of assistance or education for all individuals in their population, regardless of current health status."
Trends in health promotion initiatives include:
- 75 percent of employers currently provide or plan to provide disease management/condition management programs to employees in 2003. Conditions covered by these programs typically include asthma, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
- Employers’ use of financial incentives/disincentives over the past nine years has increased dramatically-from 14 percent in2003 to 40 percent in 2002. The purpose of the incentives or disincen-tives is to encourage modification of behavior.
- 29 percent of employers are offering health risk appraisals, during which employees are asked to complete health history questionnaires. The questionnaires are used to detect preventable health conditions. Health risk appraisals are increasingly being used as a referral mechanism for condition management or other health promotion initiatives.
- 71 percent of employers offer education and training programs to encourage employees to assume greater responsibility for their health choices and to promote a healthy lifestyle.
- 76 percent of employers offer health screenings, an 8 percent increase over 1996. Health risk screenings for employees are physical or biomedical tests that screen for specific health condi-tions, performed when symptoms aren’t present, to detect disease or health risks that might lead to disease. Tests can be conducted on-site (15 percent), through medical plans (25 percent), or by both methods (60 percent). In particular, employers are encouraging employees and dependents to participate in age-appropriate cancer and general health screenings for early detection and treatment that can potentially lead to better outcomes.
- Special programs-such as flu vaccinations, prenatal care, well baby/child care, or a nurse hotline-are offered by 80 percent of surveyed employers, up from 68 percent in 1996.
- 83 percent of companies offer additional initiatives designed to heighten employee awareness of health behaviors or to provide an opportunity or incentives for employees to become involved in a health activity. Some of the initiatives include offering a smoke-free workplace (57 percent), health fairs (42 percent), on-site employer-owned fitness facilities (36 percent), and employer-sponsored sports teams/tournaments (29 percent).
Only a few of these programs are fully integrated health management programs. Such a program includes incentives to reach a participation level of 90 percent or higher. Volunteer or low percentage attendance programs don’t allow the company to reach their expectation and drop off after a short period of time. Reducing health care costs and improving employee health and fitness requires a full commitment by management and the employees to design and implement a truly effective health management program. IBI