According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a chronic disease is a condition that lasts one year or more and requires ongoing medical attention or limits activities of daily living or both. The CDC reports that 90% of the nation’s annual 3.3 trillion in healthcare expenditures is spent on people with chronic and mental health conditions. The number one killers of all the chronic conditions, though, is heart disease and stroke. These diseases take an economic toll, and cost our healthcare system $199 billion per year and an estimated $131 billion in lost productivity. Luckily, chronic diseases can be prevented, or at least managed when prevention isn’t possible.
The Role of Wellness Programs
Wellness programs are effective because they are designed to target and change behaviors that can lead to chronic illnesses. Wellness programs also educate employees on behavior change, encourage healthy lifestyles, and make healthy choices easy throughout the workplace. An added bonus is when employers incorporate health coaches who work with employees to set and achieve their goals. When employees are able to change their behaviors, their risk for chronic disease can be drastically lowered.
Preventing Chronic Disease
As outlined by the Corporate Wellness Magazine, there are five main strategies to include in your wellness program that can help prevent chronic disease:
- Promote Healthy Behavior: Remember that leading by example goes a long way in promoting healthy behaviors. Host walking meetings, create work-life balance, provide healthier snack options in the office, get up frequently to stretch and walk around, and make sure everyone has access to the information they need to make healthy lifestyle changes.
- Address Physical Inactivity: Sedentary lifestyles are one of the main causes of heart disease, diabetes, and many other chronic conditions. It is important to address the importance of physical activity, either through lunch-and-learns, workshops, or however your employees best receive information. From there, promote physical activity by providing discounted gym memberships, utilizing wearable technology, or even bringing in a fitness instructor to teach a class once or twice a week, such as a yoga class during lunch.
- Include a Tobacco Cessation Program: Tobacco use is the single most common preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. Working with employees to quit smoking can drastically improve their overall health and lead to healthcare cost savings. In a recent case study, one of our clients was able to get 25 employees to switch to a tobacco free lifestyle, which led to savings of $145,400 in just one year. Visit our website to learn more!
- Promote Nutrition: As cited by the Corporate Wellness Magazine, only 26% of American adults eat vegetables three to four times daily, which is below the national recommendation on the consumption of vegetables. This makes food wellness a very important part of chronic disease management. Educate employees on proper nutrition and eating a balanced diet through workshops, brochures, onsite wellness coaches, etc, and make sure follow these guidelines when stocking up on office snacks or hosting an office potluck.
- Redesign the Work Environment: The physical, organizational, and psychosocial aspects of work are also key contributors to chronic disease. It is incredibly important to take the time to eliminate any work hazards that may cause injury or illness, routinely ensure all safety protocols are being upheld. In addition, focus on maintaining a positive work culture and encouraging everyone to practice work-life balance.
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