Making Primary Health Issues a Part of Your Wellness Program

When we were children, annual trips to the doctor were made by our parents or guardians, but as we grow into adult life, making routine appointments may fall to the wayside. Instead of scheduling visits just for wellness maintenance, we may only get around to going when we have the flu or want a unusual looking mole checked out.

In my experience, incorporating Wellness Maintenance Medical Visit “Reminders” into annual Wellness Programs in the workplace can make a huge impact. These employee reminders obviously alert employees to schedule “Annual Wellness Maintenance Medical Visits” with their providers, and helps keep employees on track with regular checkups.

Health and Wellness Promotion Programs are associated with lower levels of absenteeism and reduced health care costs. Providing education and motivation to improve individual health can produce valuable rewards for both employers and employees. Since most people spend so many of their waking hours at work, it becomes an excellent environment for influencing healthy habits—in terms of both physical and mental health concerns and awareness.

Americans work harder, are more productive, and miss fewer days of work as a result of wellness benefit programs, according to the latest Principal Financial Well-Being Index. Forty-one percent of workers agree that having a wellness program encourages them to work harder and perform better at work.

The index, which surveys U.S. workers at growing businesses with 10 to 1,000 workers, is released by the Principal Financial Group and conducted by Harris Interactive. These findings focus specifically on wellness attitudes and behaviors among U.S. workers and were taken from the fourth quarter 2011 index.

According to the research, 52 percent of workers said they have more energy to be more productive at work by participating in a wellness program. Another 35 percent said they have missed fewer days of work.

The top four wellness benefits workers would most like to see their employer offer are fitness center discounts (25 percent), on-site preventive screenings (22 percent), access to wellness experts such as nutritionists (21 percent), and onsite fitness facilities (19 percent).

Looking at employee wellness programs as whole, recommended inclusions would incorporate the following:

  • Health Screening: Type 2 Diabetes, Cholesterol, Lipids, Cancers (Colorectal, Breast and Cervical), Blood Pressure, and Obesity.
  • Health Behaviors: Tobacco use, Alcohol and Substance Misuse, Physical Activity and Nutrition.
  • Mental Health: Stress Reduction and Depression.

Because the success of any company depends heavily on the productivity and performance of its employees, the benefits of wellness programs can include lower healthcare costs; reduced chronic disease risk; decreased rates of illness, injury, and disability; reduced absenteeism and presenteeism (reduced performance while at work); increased employee productivity and efficiency; improved morale; lower stress levels and employee burnout; and enhanced retention of healthy employees.

What Workers Say About Stress on the Job

  • A survey by Northwestern National Life found that 40% of workers reported their job is “very or extremely stressful.”
  • A survey by the Families and Work Institute found that 26% of workers report they are “often or very often burned out or stressed by their work.”
  • A survey by Yale University found that 29% of workers feel “quite a bit or extremely stressed at work.”

Scope of Stress in the American Workplace

Job stress has become a common and costly problem in the American workplace, leaving few workers untouched. For example, studies report the following:

“One-fourth of employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives.”

  • Northwestern National Life

“Three-fourths of employees believe the worker has more on-the-job stress than a generation ago.”

  • Princeton Survey Research Associates

“Problems at work are more strongly associated with health complaints than any other life stressor—more so than even financial or family problems.”

  • Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Co

It’s during wellness visits that doctors are more likely to spot issues that fly under the radar with few warning signs or symptoms, like Type 2 Diabetes, high-blood pressure, and even cancer. By limiting your doctor visits to emergency visits for specific illnesses, you eliminate the basic checkup when doctors can go over your vital signs and really have a conversion with you about what’s going on in your life.

Another word of advice: Don’t squeeze your annual wellness maintenance into one visit. Make sure you and your doctor discuss what tests should be run, what blood work needs to be drawn, and ways to improve your diet and exercise program.

Diagnostic tests can provide powerful insights into your health and enhance your wellness. Beyond yearly physicals, you should also receive regular screenings to decrease risk of disease. Colonoscopies, mammograms, pap smears, prostate exams, and vision tests are also part of preventative care. If you need referrals to get these important tests done, remember to ask your primary care doctor to set those up.

Keep up with cancer screenings, in 2014 more than half of new cases of colon cancer were diagnosed, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly 34 percent of people aged 50 plus are overdue for their annual screenings. Cost, Fear and Misconceptions about testing stop many people from staying on top of their care.

Studies confirm that health improvements and cost savings are achievable by providing work-site programs for health promotion and disease prevention. On average, for every $1 spent on health management and education, companies could save $3 on healthcare costs.

Adopting healthy practices can be affordable, simple, and does not have to require expensive technology or elaborate measures in the workplace. Employers should provide health education and materials via wellness programs that can help employees take responsibility and transform their health allowing for a healthier work place environment.

Always Remember to Take Good Care of Your Health!

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