Business of Well-being

Don't Get Worse

Don't Get Worse

The realities of the typical American lifestyle and the natural progression of aging consistently show that overall health for Americans is declining.  This pervasive decline in health (moving from low risk to high risk for chronic disease) translates into increased costs for employers on many levels through higher medical utilization, increased workers compensation claims and lost productivity, just to name a few.

As employers struggle with this reality, they search for measurable ways to reduce this trend.  These phenomena can largely be reduced or eliminated by keeping the healthy (low risk) people healthy.  According to Dee Edington, University of Michigan Health Research Center, the most effective way to increase the portion of people in the low risk category is to prevent the low from moving to medium or high risk.  

In other words, the most effective strategy is to keep the healthy people healthy. Many firms adopt a do nothing strategy thinking that wellness, population health and productivity management are not worth the investment.  However, following the realities of the American lifestyle and ageing, the flow of risks is to High Risk.  The flow of costs is to High Cost.

Without intervention, costs will naturally follow risk and age. The relationships between health risks and health care costs are clear:  individuals with higher health risks have higher health care costs than low risk individuals.  The change in cost follows the change in risk.  Interestingly, the benefit of avoiding risk (not increasing risk status) in the first place is over two times greater than the benefit of reducing an existing risk ($350 to $150 per risk, per year).

What is the secret to keeping healthy people healthy?  We believe it is awareness, education and motivation. The vast majority of people have little if any training or knowledge about their health and leading a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, they don't "know their numbers" such as blood pressure, glucose or cholesterol. Where do they start?  

The answer lies in the combination of awareness, education and motivation.  Biometric health risk assessments deliver awareness through a thorough and objective screening process and a clear reporting system that allows participants to "know their numbers."  Once the participant knows their numbers (Awareness), they are then presented with the tools to be educated on what those numbers mean.  

Finally, biometric health risk assessments are designed to deliver motivation and education to help people make healthy lifestyle choices and to be accountable for their own health. The following are three examples of year over year results demonstrating the success of biometric health risk assessment implementations.  At the foundation of a biometric health risk assessment is the scoring system from 1-100, the higher the score the healthier the participant.  

A score of 71 or greater indicates either low or ideal risk.  Each of these examples takes into account only those participants who have repeated the program from year to year.  These exciting results demonstrate that the three tenets of Awareness, Education and Motivation keep people from getting worse.

Company 1 - 70% Improved or Maintained Health

Company 1 is a medium sized, single site manufacturing facility in the Midwest. They were a challenging group as their beginning health profile was very poor with an average score of 63.In one year, with biometric health risk assessments, Company 1 was able to increase the average score of returning participants by an amazing five points and improved nearly every other major biometric measurement.   Over 70% of their population improved or maintained their risk level.

Total Score 2007-2008

Company 1                                                                     2007                                                                 2008

Average Score                                                                63                                                                     68

Company 1                                                                     2007                                                                 2008

Blood Pressure                                                             #                                                                       #

Average Systolic                                                             130                                                                   127

Average Diastolic                                                            80                                                                      80

Company 1                                                                     2007                                                                   2008

Glucose                                                              %                      Avg                                                %                      Avg

Ideal                                                                    59%                  92.0                                               63%                  91.7

Moderate                                                             34%                 106.5                                              30%                  107.5

Very High                                                             7%                   168.3                                               7%                   182.6

Company 1                                                                    2007                                                                     2008

Nicotine                                                                          %                                                                          %

Negative                                                                        64%                                                                       70%

Positive                                                                          36%                                                                       30%

Company 2 - 89% Improved or Maintained Glucose Reading

Company 2 is a large multi-location Midwest manufacturer.  You will see that their average total score has improved by three points overall. All other biometric measures, on average, remained flat or improved.  

Of the participants in 2007 with high or very high blood pressure, 48% improved their results to moderate or better. Of the participants identified as being pre-diabetic in 2007, 25% returned their levels to normal ranges.  Other primary biometrics stayed flat, indicating success over time and aging.

Total Score 2007-2008

Company 2                                                                   2007                                                           2008

Average Score                                                              73                                                               76

Company 2                                                                   2007                                                            2008

Blood Pressure                                                           #                                                                   #

Average Systolic                                                           122                                                               121

Average Diastolic                                                          78                                                                  77

Company 2                                                                   2007                                                             2008

Glucose                                                          %                             Avg                                      %                  Avg

Ideal                                                                67%                         93.0                                      74%             90.6

Moderate                                                         30%                         106.8                                    23%             106.6

Very High                                                         3%                           178.3                                    3%               162.1

Company 3 - 53% in Very High to Moderate risk migrate to Low Risk in Year 2

Company 3 is a white collar environment with a highly educated population. Surprisingly, 53% of those identified as medium to very high risk (score of 70 or lower) improved their risk status in year two.  This can largely be attributed to awareness and education.  You will also see that from 2007-2008 the average participant maintained or improved their overall score.  

There were also significant improvements in nicotine use, blood pressure, and glucose levels. BMI and cholesterol levels remained flat. All indicators show that as this population aged one year, their health did not deteriorate.

Total Score 2007-2008

Company 3                                                        2007                                                   2008

Average Score                                                   76                                                       77

Company 3                                                         2007                                                  2008

Blood Pressure                                                 #                                                        #

Average Systolic                                                121                                                     120

Average Diastolic                                               77                                                        76

Keeping Healthy People Healthy

As we've learned through the various research of Dee Edington, the key to containing health care costs is preventing the migration to higher risk factors within a given population.   Keep the healthy people healthy and keep those with risk stable or improving will reduce costs and improve productivity.  

The data here shows that through the awareness, education and motivation provided by a biometric health risk assessment, risks will stay stable and maybe even migrate for the better.  This translates into higher productivity and lower costs, a clear objective for any company.  

Biometric health risk assessments demonstrate proven return through stabilization and improvement of employee population health. Use biometric health risk assessments and DON'T GET WORSE.


1. Edington, D, Emerging Research: A View From One Research Center, American Journal of Health Promotion, 2001, volume 15:5, page 347

2. University of Michigan Health Management Research Center, "Health Management as a Serious Business Strategy, 2007,"

3. Edington, D, Emerging Research: A View From One Research Center, American Journal of Health Promotion, 2001, volume 15:5, page 344

About the Author

Jim Wachtel is National Sales Director of HealthCheck360, a nationwide performance based wellness and health risk management firm.  HealthCheck360 combines state of the art objective and measurable assessment methodology that drives accountability and performance.  

These tools are coupled with health coaching and participant engagement resources that drive positive behavior change and demonstrated return on investment.  He can be reached at 563-587-5210 or

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