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Total Worker Health – the Time is Now

Within the past week, the Healthier Workforce Center for Excellence (HWCE) announced the release of a Total Worker Health (TWH) Supplemental issue from the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM). Quite a mouthful, isn’t it?

This document contains relevant information for both small and large employers to consider. David P. Lind Benchmark (DPLB) co-authored an article with HWCE entitled, “An Employee Total Health Management-Based Survey of Iowa Employers.” The article addresses health and wellness program activities within Iowa based on a random survey conducted in 2012 by DPLB along with the research expertise of Data Point Research, Inc.

For the last five years, I have had the honor of collaborating with HWCE on many research-related issues regarding health care in Iowa. As part of the University of Iowa College of Public Health, HWCE’s mission is to improve the “health of workers in Iowa and nationally through integrated health promotion and health protection research, collaboration with peer institutions, and dissemination of successful interventions.”

As discussed in the published JOEM article, when comparing the number of employee well-being programs offered within the workplace, a great chasm exists between small Iowa employers and their larger counterparts. Smaller Iowa employers (less than 50 employees), make up 94 percent of all Iowa employers and yet a relatively small number offer well-being initiatives.

Perceived lack of resources certainly affects whether employers will implement the programs discussed in the article. Based on another study we completed in 2012 for Capital Crossroads, there is some hope. Employers without wellness programs appear to see the benefit of offering wellness initiatives but are unsure how to begin the process – and, keep the program sustainable into the future. The key is to find ongoing-community resources to help assist employers.

The aim for all employers is to mitigate increasing healthcare costs and the subsequent health insurance premiums that follow. Having healthy, productive and mentally-engaged employees at the workplace is equally important.

There are many insightful articles found in this JOEM issue. Hopefully, you will find a few gems to help make your “employees healthier, safer, and more productive” within your workplace environment.

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Positive Perceptions on Wellness (Part I)

Last year, our firm (along with Data Point Research and Yogesh Shah, MD) was hired by the Capital Crossroads Wellness Committee to undertake a state-wide survey of Iowa employers to determine:

  • the extent employers have embraced wellness initiatives
  • their desires for future assistance in offering and maintaining such programs

The results from the 2012 Capital Crossroads Wellness & Community Study were both extensive and revealing!

Generally, Iowa employers believe wellness programs are beneficial for their workplace environment – whether they currently offer wellness programs or not. Over 15 percent of Iowa employers statewide offer some type of wellness program to their employees, and this offering greatly depends on the size of the employer. Only 13 percent of employers with 2 to 9 employees offer wellness programs, while nearly all (94 percent) of employers with 1,000 or more employees offer at least one wellness program.

Larger employers (250+) are significantly more likely to offer incentives for participation in wellness programs (55 percent) versus employers with 2 to 49 employees (24 percent) and employers with 50 to 249 employees (39 percent). The most common incentive offered by both large and small employers? Cash or gift cards. In addition, some employers offer “lower insurance premiums” as an incentive for employees who participate in programs, with larger employers being twice as likely to offer this incentive.

Larger employers are also more likely to assume the majority of the wellness costs (62 percent), while only 46 percent of the smaller employers do so.

When offering a successful wellness program, large and small employers alike agree that these three items are inexpensive to administer:

  • Communication about programs
  • Strong internal leader
  • Top management support

Perhaps one of the biggest findings from this Study is the most encouraging of all. There is strong agreement by Iowa employers that wellness:

  • Reduces healthcare costs
  • Increases productivity
  • Reduces absenteeism
  • Increases the quality of life for employees

In fact, less than three percent of those employers who do not currently offer programs feel that wellness programs do not work!

The findings within this Study certainly suggest that having a strong workplace culture committed to wellness with a healthy dose of senior leadership support is critical for any wellness program to be successful.

The results reflect some very positive feedback to Capital Crossroads and to the Healthiest State Initiative – employers are looking for guidance from their respective communities on how to make wellness programs inexpensive to begin (and continue)…and easy to administer. As they say, “If there is a will…there is a way!”

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