Retired Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks tough guy Bob Probert died recently after an apparent heart attack while boating with his family. He was just 45 years old. Does it feel like heart disease victims are becoming younger and you're getting older? The devastation of losing a loved one unexpectedly has become more frequent and difficult.
However, preventing heart disease in the first place is often the easy part. The problem is how to decide what programs to adopt and emphasize. What will result in real improvements? In short, what works?Here are five proven strategies, when used together, are nearly certain to help.
Know Your Numbers
When it comes to health, looks tell surprisingly little. We have never finished a single day of testing without identifying "walking time bombs," many of whom are of normal weight, have healthy lifestyles and see your physician regularly. It is vital that you have an annual checkup with their personal physician and that you know, rather than guess, your personal risk factors, such as blood pressure, total cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol.
Once you know you're not as healthy as you think you are, you will begin to prioritize prevention. The New England Journal of Medicine recently reported a 65% reduction in heart disease through blood pressure control, cholesterol reduction, increased activity, and no cigarette smoking. Other studies show that heart disease, the number one danger and cost, is nearly completely eliminated for men and women without risk factors at age 50. Risk factors are eliminated through healthy habits and regular physician visits to address potential problems.
The top five chronic and costly diseases (i.e., heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes) are caused by less than ten modifiable risk factors and cause more than two-thirds of all deaths each year. The diagnosis and treatment guidelines for those risk factors such as high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, and diabetes change regularly, due to ongoing advances in medicine. Ask your health care provider how your numbers compare to the most recent recommendations.
Promote What you Already Have
Emphasizing and covering preventive services will greatly improve the utilization of many important preventive services such as tobacco cessation and cancer screenings. Emphasize the importance of the any preventive programs you offer (e.g., Nurse advice line, EAP, health coaching, self-care). Next, consider covering recommended preventive services from the free, Purchaser's Guide to Clinical Preventive Services.
Cover 100% of Prevention
Employee co-pays and deductibles have risen by about $600 each over the past 10 years. They have become discouraged and cannot afford continued increases any more than you can as an organization. Employees should never be discouraged from preventive care that has been proven to prevent dangerous and costly conditions.
Respected recommendations like those made in the Purchaser's Guide, periodic physician examinations, and health behavior change programs are the foundation for long-term health cost containment and can save lives.
Employers should fund 100 percent of first-dollar coverage through medical benefits or reimbursed under a health savings account. In other words, the employee should not pay anything even if they have not met their deductible.
Make it Too Good to Pass Up
Consider bringing some of the most effective services onsite as part of your corporate wellness program. For example, a Zero Trend Appraisal or a strong Health Risk Appraisal will jumpstart engagement into resources that your employees didn't think they needed beforehand. Provide a convenient conference room for them to participate during work hours.
Arrange on-time, private appointments. Communicate that the programs are completely confidential and 100% company-paid. Consider an incentive such as a company t-shirt, raffle ticket, or gift card as an extra bonus to boost participation. Bouncing back from a health care crisis takes time. However, if you've discovered what strategies work best then you're likely to prevent the crisis in the first place.
About the Author
Scott Foster is President of Wellco, based in Michigan. Wellco works with companies who want to measurably improve dangerous and costly health conditions. Wellco specializes in health ROI systems, health risk appraisals, wellness programs, speaking, and consulting. Wellco is the developer of the award-winning HealthHammer, the first and only Zero Trend Appraisal system. For more information, visit www.wellcocorp.com or call 248-549-4247.