Business of Well-being

Wellness Programs: Building A Healthier Bottom Line

Most business owners, like most Americans, look to the start of the New Year as a great time to make resolutions for changes in both their lives and their businesses. For individuals, the most common resolutions involve ways to improve their health.

For business owners, the resolutions typically focus on ways to improve their organization's bottom line. Interestingly enough, these two resolutions have a lot in common. Increasingly, companies looking to create a healthier bottom line are realizing that one simple way to do it is to help create healthier employees.

Research has shown time and again that a healthier workforce results in a more productive workforce by way of fewer hours lost to employee absences, a decline in work-related injuries, less turnover and increased morale.

The increasing popularity of wellness programs speaks to the fact that more and more executives have come to realize that a healthier workforce offers a way to control continually increasing healthcare costs.  

Fact: a properly implemented program can more than pay for itself, it could increase your earnings by reducing your company's overall healthcare spending. Creating a healthier workforce, however, is not simply a matter of encouraging employees to eat better and work out more (although those are certainly two good ideas).

If you are a business owner who really wants to significantly improve the overall health of your employees (and your bottom line), you have to understand the current state of their health. Understanding the current health of your employees goes beyond such basics as a "finger stick test."

Those worked when wellness programs were first becoming popular, but if your business wants to take wellness to the next level, you need to cover more issues; you should be looking at tests such as vascular ultrasounds, colonoscopies, and/or stroke screening.

At a minimum, every employee should have their blood pressure, BMI, fasting glucose, and cholesterol levels checked annually.  This aids in early detection of problem areas before they turn into chronic health problems.

Studies tell us that nearly half of American adults have elevated cholesterol. However, our "in house" screening results show that 67 to 72 percent of participants are above the recommended cholesterol levels.  Are three-fourths of your employees sitting on a ticking time bomb such as a heart attack or stroke?

Over 86 percent of the people we test are deficient in Vitamin D.  The Vitamin D Council recommends that adults take 5,000-8,000 IU.  You can get Vitamin D from the sun but it requires that you be outside with as much skin exposed as possible during peak solar hours (10am-noon) each day.  Most people are not able to do this.

High blood pressure is called the "silent killer" for a reason.  Because there are no symptoms, nearly one-third of all U.S. adults don't even know they have high blood pressure.  Left uncontrolled it can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. According to the American Heart Association, one in four U.S. adults has high blood pressure.

Our research reflects this percentage as well. There is a danger when talking about percentages in a general sense however. It would be a mistake to think that 50 percent of your employees have high cholesterol, 80 percent are deficient in vitamin D or one-third have high blood pressure.

Since 2003, we have performed health screenings on tens of thousands of employees at hundreds of businesses, organizations and local governments nationwide. What we've discovered is that no two companies have the same exact needs. The only similarities we find are among employees within the same industry.

For example, employees in some industries typically have issues related to diabetes or obesity, while employees in another are more prone to issues like high blood pressure or heart disease. The results often surprise the owners and, in some cases, have saved lives of their employees.

It's not uncommon to find issues such as undiagnosed diabetes, men with elevated PSA readings (prostate cancer), out of range thyroid readings or significant plaque formation in the carotid arteries -- all potentially deadly diseases if left unchecked.

Knowing the type of issues facing their employees has allowed these forward-thinking companies to develop customized wellness programs designed to address the specific needs of their employees.

Follow this plan and the results can lead to programs that create healthier and more productive employees, and help you keep your resolution of improving the health of your company's bottom line.

About The Author

Johnette van Eeden is founder and CEO of Star Wellness, which offers wellness and preventive care screening services for businesses, local governments and school systems. The company, which began offering franchises this year, has more than 230 clients in over 20 other states. More information is available at

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