As health care costs continue to be a significant part of small and large employer’s costs, corporate wellness programs are a trend that is not likely to go away anytime soon. Hence, the search for innovative ways to engage employees in preventive programs to promote overall good health is also on the rise.
The underlying health of employees and their families is a significant health cost driver. So, at a recent panel discussion on health and wellness trends, the focus was on how businesses can use population health data like that included in the 2015 America’s Health Rankings report to drive their employee health and wellness strategies.
Although New Jersey ranked 11 in the nationwide survey, the following key takeaways from the discussion are worth sharing with small and large businesses in New Jersey:
- Socio-economic factors and personal behavior are the largest influences on public health; helping employees quit smoking, lose weight and manage chronic diseases such as diabetes can go a long way to help manage health care costs.
- Facts can convince: Employers who have data to support why health care costs are rising and provide evidence of proven ways to lower costs have a better chance of convincing stakeholders, including employees, unions and senior leaders, to invest in wellness programs.
- To accomplish a healthier mindset among their employees, employers should look for three things from their health plans:
- Education: Resources to help educate employees about how a health plan works, who pays for what, and how to reduce costs by getting care in a lower-cost setting or using generic drugs are important.
- Rewards: In addition to being able to reward employees for good behavior, employers want insurers to reward the company for implementing practices that encourage healthy behavior.
- Actionable steps: Employers want insurers to give them easy ways to take action to improve employee health.
- While apps are an excellent way to reach younger employees and help them stay healthy, many employers are struggling to find ways to reach their employees ages 45-65 and help them manage their health.
- Many employers are concerned that employees will perceive them as too paternalistic if they talk about health and wellness too often. Karen Wolk Feinstein, CEO of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, advised employers a to find office “pacesetters” – i.e. employees who are naturally inclined to make good health decisions and lead others – to help the company implement health and wellness plans.
Additional information on the America’s Health Ranking report can be found at http://www.americashealthrankings.org/reports/annual.