Chronic diseases - such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and arthritis - are among the most common, costly and preventable of all health problems in the United States. That is why chronic disease prevention and health promotion programs have become such a strategic imperative for hospitals, companies and insurance organizations.
According to new studies released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), four modifiable health risk behaviors - namely lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption - are responsible for much of the illness, suffering and early death attributed to chronic diseases.
These persistent conditions - the leading causes of death and disability- leave in their wake unnecessary loss of life, compromised quality of life and burgeoning health care costs. The good news is that although chronic diseases are among the most common and costly of all health problems, they are also among the most preventable.
This reality has led to the creation of health and wellness educational programming specifically designed to help individuals achieve a healthy lifestyle and combat chronic disease. The spread of the Internet and digital devices offers an even newer solution in this vein: via online educational platforms, at-risk corporate employees, hospital patients, insurance clients and other stakeholders can now meet face to face with wellness experts from the convenience of their homes or offices.
The ubiquity of live video-conferencing and virtual classrooms provides access to important classes in nutrition, fitness, cooking, yoga, stress-reduction and more, at times that suit any busy schedule. Want to take a healthy cooking class from your kitchen? Online wellness classes are here to show you the way.
The Problem: Chronic Disease and the Lack of Accessible Health Promotion Programs
Chronic diseases are the most costly of all U.S. health problems. They are also the most preventable. According to the CDC, chronic diseases - such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes- are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. Chronic diseases account for 70 percent of all U.S. deaths, or 1.7 million lost lives each year. These diseases also cause major limitations in daily living for almost one out of every ten Americans, or about 25 million people.
The costs of chronic disease to healthcare organizations like hospitals and insurance companies are enormous. A CDC study reports that the U.S. spends significantly more on healthcare than any other nation, mostly due to chronic disease costs. In 2006, the healthcare expenditure per person was over $7,000, more than twice the average of 29 other developed countries! The U.S. also has one of the fastest growth rates in health spending, tripling expenditures since 1990.
As a nation, more than 75 percent of American healthcare spending is on people with chronic conditions. These persistent conditions leave in their wake senseless loss of life, disability, compromised quality of life and increasing healthcare costs. The facts are deeply troubling.For example, seven out of ten deaths are from chronic diseases.
In 2005, 133 million Americans (almost one out of every two adults) experienced at least one chronic illness. About 25 percent of people suffering from chronic health conditions have one or more daily activity limitations. Research links mental illness with chronic disease; chronic disease can exacerbate symptoms of depression, while depressive disorders can lead to chronic disease.
Interactive Wellness Education Can Save the Day
The scope and severity of the chronic disease problem demands attention. While no one can eliminate hereditary risk factors for chronic disease, focused education can fortunately mitigate other factors. A targeted wellness program, for example, can greatly reduce risk factors such as poor nutrition, physical inactivity, obesity, stress, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption and, in turn, much of the illness, suffering and early death related to chronic disease.
Research proves the results of educational wellness programs are well worth the effort. Wellness programs deliver a clear return on investment, up to $6 saved for every $1 spent. In addition, 52 percent of workers participating in a wellness program report increased energy and greater productivity at work.
Another 35 percent say that the information they learned in a wellness program led them to miss fewer days of work. Wellness programs also improve individual investment in personal health and strengthen trust in health institutions. This is why wellness programs are increasingly looked to as a solution for reducing and managing chronic disease.
From fitness and yoga to nutrition and cooking, relaxation to meditation and more, patients and insurance clients in a wellness program can get the knowledge needed to manage their personal wellness. And the movement to the online realm is only making it easier.
Online Wellness Programs: Life-Changing Connections with Health and Wellness Experts
With the spread and ubiquity of the Internet, comprehensive online wellness programs are now being used to guide participants to better health by connecting them to top health and wellness experts in interactive online sessions. Initial findings show that it's one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to connect patients and insurance clients to health programming that can make a huge impact in their lives.
How it Works - Best Practices
With a virtual health and wellness program, patients and clients can receive access to hundreds of interactive online classes led by top health and wellness experts each month. Every session takes place in a virtual, online environment, enabling participants to choose when and how they attend class: from home, the office, a coffee shop or anywhere else with a computer and Internet access. The benefits of this type of virtual wellness program can be immense. For example, the following are common benefits enjoyed by organizations:
- Critical connections to experts: Top health and wellness experts, doctors, authors, mentors and trainers are available to lead interactive online sessions with patients or insurance clients. It would be difficult to bring in these experts for in-person seminars, but the online realm offers a convenient solution.
- Programs customized to specific needs: Wellness needs vary. Organizations can select experts and courses to facilitate their organization's particular wellness goals.
- Recordings provide value: Online classes can be recorded and stakeholders of the program usually have the ability to access the archived classes. If they want to review what they've learned at a later date, they can.
- Accessibility and convenience: Online wellness sessions are based around accessibility and convenience. Class schedules can be set more flexibly, and participants can join from anywhere they have Internet access.
- Rewards: To ensure that participants remain active and engaged in each class, online wellness programs can provide prizes and points for achieving certain milestones.
- Reports and tracking: There is complete transparency on the effectiveness of the online program, as program managers and coaches can track participation and stay in contact with each student. Online platforms generally track data that enable organizations to evaluate ROI over time and incentivize the participants to meet health goals.
While certainly not the "silver bullet" in solving the problem of chronic disease (is there one?), online wellness programs offer a new and innovative path toward disease prevention and management that fits with modern lifestyle patterns. As the Internet increasingly becomes the preferred location for anything and everything, online wellness education offers huge potential to provide people the knowledge they need to manage and improve their health.
About Learn It Live
Learn It Live (www.learnitlive.com) is the online learning website that connects the world to experts. The company specializes in Virtual Wellness Centers that allow organizations to connect their members to a range of health and wellness classes directly from their computers. For more information, see www.learnitlive.com/enterprise.php.