Fighting Diabetes with Knowledge and Action: A Plan for Corporate Wellness
Diabetes is a modern scourge, an illness we need to confront - and to whatever extent possible, conquer - so corporate wellness can flourish. The enclosed questions and answers offer perspective about this condition, for the good of all.
As a matter of corporate wellness, why is diabetes (Types 1 and 2) a public health crisis?
Answer: Percentage of the U.S. population, is close to 10%. When that many people are sick, and here I refer only to diabetes and not other conditions like heart disease, cancer and stroke, we are in the midst of a public health crisis. Between the cost of health insurance and treatment, in addition to complications worsened by diabetes and sick days and hospitalization, the current system is unsustainable.
We cannot afford to have so many men and women out of work, disabled or unable to return to work, because of diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Unless we educate people about this problem, unless we highlight the financial and physical costs of this illness, companies will see their health care expenses rise and the life insurance underwriting guidelines for employees with diabetes - if these workers can even qualify to buy life insurance - skyrocket.
As an issue of corporate wellness, the term itself is contradictory unless we better inform and inspire workers about the dangers of diabetes. For example: Stating the facts is not an example of using scare tactics, since the truth is what it is, regardless of whether it frightens people. And the truth is, with complications that include blindness, amputation of the feet and legs, heart attack or a diabetic coma, there is nothing scarier than the truth.
How can businesses do more to safeguard workers who have diabetes, or those who are at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes?
Education is the answer to everything. Companies should invite a variety of professionals - such as doctors, nurses, nutritionists, fitness experts and life insurance agents - to deliver presentations about the urgency of this issue and the necessity of making wellness a priority. Writing from experience, and speaking (often, with individual clients and people throughout the country) with the same degree of authority, I can explain why uncontrolled diabetes is not only a threat to your health but an enemy of your family's financial security.
If you do not qualify for life insurance because of this illness, or if the premiums are too expensive for you to purchase a policy, your loved ones will be in a very precarious situation. Should you be sidelined by diabetes, or should you be felled by this condition and pass away, your lack of life insurance could leave your family impoverished and overrun by debt.
With regard to life insurance, why is it so important for diabetics to, one, exercise greater control of their health, and two, seek to purchase life insurance?
As described above, the former is a prerequisite for the latter. Meaning: If you improve your health, if you lose weight, lower your blood pressure and reduce your body mass index (BMI), you will find it easier to qualify for and buy life insurance that is not expensive. So, the economic incentive is clear.
The personal incentives - the reasons men and women, and their respective employers should seize this issue - are obvious, too: A healthier workforce translates into a happier and more productive workplace, where morale is high, operational costs are lower, health insurance coverage may be more expansive, and additional savings may be returned to employees in the form of raises or year-end bonuses. It pays to be healthy, period.
You have previously urged insurance professionals to be advocates of health and wellness. Why is that role essential, when it comes to promoting corporate wellness in particular?
A life insurance agent, just like a business owner or an executive, needs to be conversant in a variety of ways; and fluent in a number of other ways, where a professional can speak about the most intricate details about a topic (in this case, diabetes) in the same way a trained specialist would.
I ensure that I know the facts about high-risk medical conditions because, as a point of personal ethics and professional responsibility, I cannot help a client shop for a life insurance policy if I do not understand the needs - and the health - of that man or woman.
Others may satisfy themselves with the basics, the equivalent of cocktail conversation about the superficial aspects of an issue, but I find that approach inadequate and wrong. I owe the people I help a measure of respect commensurate with their expectations. I owe them the decency of knowing the challenges of - and sympathizing with the struggles caused by - diabetes.
On a practical level, how does diabetes impact a company or impair worker productivity?
I close where I began, with a call to action; to educate workers about the dangers of diabetes, as well as the economic and physical costs of this condition, so corporate wellness can be more than a catchphrase and more of a reality from millions of people throughout the United States.
If we want a thriving workplace, and if we want to ensure that employees can buy the life insurance they need and deserve, then we must remind ourselves of the alternative: An environment crippled by illness and depressed by chronic sickness, where success is rare, morale is low and wellness is nonexistent. We can do better - much better - and we must do so now.
About the Author
Brad Cummins is the Founder of Local Life Agents and a frequent writer about issues involving health, wellness and insurance. You can follow him at twitter.com/locallifeagent and facebook.com/LocalLifeAgents.