Employers from coast to coast are facing a troubling problem, how to get their employees to adopt healthier lifestyles and behaviors. The conventional methods simply do not seem to get the job done on a consistent basis, which raises the question: "Is there really any way to get people to adopt healthier lifestyles?"
Consider the following disturbing facts:
- 97% of people who try to lose weight fail, and gain back all of the initial weight they lose plus 3 more pounds within 12 months. (National Weight Loss Registry)
- 90% of people who try to quit smoking fail, and are smoking again within 18 months. (University of Minnesota)
- 83% of people who try to quit alcohol fail. (AA)
- 90% of Type 2 diabetics could potentially reverse their condition, and yet few employers even offer this option to their employees.
These are just a few of the statistics available to explain why healthcare costs continue to rise every year. People are becoming less healthy with each passing year. Here are a few troubling statistics to prove this point.
- In 1960, healthcare costs consumed 7% of the GNP. This year, health costs will consume between 16 and 20% of the GNP, and, according to Sir John Oldman, of the British National Health Service, the U.S. will spend 100% of its GNP on healthcare by the year 2065, if current trends continue.
- Information from the Centers for Disease Control confirms the how and why of this startling increase in health costs. For children born after the year 2000:
- 35% of Caucasians will become diabetic.
- 43% of African Americans will become diabetic.
- 49% of Hispanics will become diabetics.
This compares to the current rate of diabetes of 8.3% with 35% of adults being pre-diabetic.
- Also, the generation born after the year 2000 will be the first in history that will not live as long as their parents did.
These are clearly shocking and disturbing facts, and yet, no one seems to be able to get the attention of our governments, the insurance companies, the media or the public. Since employers and employees are the ones who pay for most of this poor health, it seems logical to focus efforts to improve health in the workplace. How can employer wellness programs begin to reverse these dangerous trends?
Creating a Sense of Urgency
There are many logical arguments for the pursuit of a healthier workforce.
- Healthier employees have lower absenteeism.
- Healthier employees are more productive.
- Healthier employees cause lower healthcare costs.
- Lower health care costs means more profit.
- More profit can lead to higher salaries and better job security.
- Healthier employees have more energy for home and social activities.
- Healthier employees spend less time in hospitals, doctor's offices and pharmacies.
- Healthier employees have less pain and discomfort.
- Healthier employees have a longer life.
- Healthier employees have a better quality of life.
While all of these points are true and generally known to most employers and employees, they do not seem to lead to a sense of urgency to become healthier. There are many reasons for this, and these reasons need to be explored and addressed. Creating this sense of urgency may be the number one method to get the attention of the employers and their employees concerning the need for better health.
Common Personal Myths for Changing Lifestyles
- I have good genes.
- Genes are not fixed.
- Genetic expression changes based on toxins, stress, poor nutrition and lack of exercise.
- Bad genes can be made better, and good genes can become worse.
- Employees must be told the truth about their genes.
- I eat a pretty healthy diet.
- 99% of people have a nutritional deficiency.
- Nutritional deficiencies are the #1 cause of illness.
- Most food in the food stores has depleted nutritional value.
- Food is over processed.
- Food is over cooked.
- Food is not chewed or digested properly.
- Employees need to learn more about the food they are eating and how deficient their diets are.
- My last health test was pretty good.
- Conventional medical tests are very unreliable.
- Cholesterol is not the primary cause of heart disease. C-reactive protein and homocysteine are better tests because they measure inflammation.
- Glucose and AIC tests are not foolproof diagnostic tests for diabetes. Post meal glucose levels are just as important.
- Mammograms may not be the best test for breast cancer for many women. Two thousand women being tested over 10 years will find one breast cancer case. Ultrasound and thermography are superior tests for women who are young, have dense breast tissue, have implants or have a lot of fat in their breasts. This is most women.
- The PSA test for prostate cancer is being seriously challenged as misleading and potentially harmful.
- Employees need to be told all of the facts about the tests being used, as well as the tests that could be used.
- If I get sick, my insurance company and my doctor will help me become healthier.
- Conventional medicine only has science to support 20-25% of what they do.
- Conventional medicine manages disease; it does not prevent or reverse disease by addressing the cause.
- Many treatments have dangerous side effects, which can be worse than the disease.
- Conventional medicine treatments are the number one cause of death in the US.
- Employees should be told the truth about medicine.
- My weight is not really that high.
- Even 10 extra pounds causes a health risk.
- 97% of weight loss efforts fail.
- People do not eat according to their metabolism.
- Skipping meals actually causes weight gain.
- Many people are addicted to sugar and simple carbs, which is not addressed by any of the conventional weight loss plans.
- Employees need to be told about the lack of science behind most weight loss programs and offered a program that is evidenced-based.
Organizational Myths for Changing Lifestyles
We have a wellness program with many components.
- Most employer wellness programs are grossly under-funded.
- Most wellness programs are not guided by good plans.
- Most wellness programs are not administered by qualified wellness and education professionals.
- Most wellness programs do not set priorities based on potential outcomes and R.O.I.
- Most wellness programs are offering services that are not based on good science.
- Most wellness programs do not provide high quality health assessments that provide a true early warning of the potential for disease.
- Employers need to make honest, comprehensive appraisals of their wellness programs or they will just continue to get mediocre results.
About the Author
Charles K. Bens, PhD.Healthy at WorkSarasota, Florida.