The Problem With Wellness

The term “wellness” can have a different meaning to different people. I like the following definitions:

1) The quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, as the result of deliberate effort.

2) An approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases.

Business leaders are interested in how “wellness” will impact their bottom line. Unfortunately many have tried ineffective or poorly executed strategies and are now turned off by the term. I have found that an integrated well executed strategy following the 5 steps of risk management is most effective in delivering results.


Ways To Cut Workers’ Comp Costs

A study of 5,568 employers in 29 different industries conducted by Michigan State University and the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research gives some insight regarding injury prevention and loss control.  The study findings, issued in 1993, show that employers with the “best” records (fewest workers’ compensation claims) had these common qualities.

  • Placed great emphasis on safety and prevention practices;
  • Were more inclined to have “open” managerial styles that encourage shared decision making; and
  • Had consciously developed disability prevention and management strategies.

Employers are encouraged to look at their individual operations with a critical eye toward identifying ways to further reduce injuries and illness, thus improving working environments while cutting workers’ compensation claims cost.  Michigan companies that have successfully reduced workers’ compensation costs have offered the following cost-saving suggestions.

  • Set safety goals.
  • Create an employee incentive program.
  • Improve accident reporting and investigating.
  • Make review of injury reports part of the job of top managers (even the very top).
  • Review injury reports promptly.
  • Have front-line supervisors and employees design injury prevention programs.
  • Establish training programs in safe lifting techniques, hand safety and hazard recognition.
  • Purchase appropriate equipment along with making other ergonomic changes.
  • Develop return-to-work programs in which injured employees are allowed to return gradually, from simulated work settings to meaningful transitional or part-time assignments to full-time duty.
  • Write job descriptions that include “physical capability” requirements.

By making an effort to improve the safety of the workplace, companies can reduce their workers’ compensation insurance costs in two ways:

  • They can reduce the dollar value of business losses by limiting the severity of accidents or by eliminating them altogether.
  • They may make the business eligible for schedule rating credits, premium credits and other incentive programs offered by carriers.

Bath salts: The newest, most dangerous, designer drug

State and federal bans, combined with the arrest of a man accused of being the area dealer, have slowed down Midland County’s ordeal with a new, and very dangerous, designer drug.

Bath salts, a designer drug that has nothing to do with bathing products, is synthesized in overseas super labs then sold through the Internet. It became popular in Europe in 2007. By 2009, it had made it’s way to the United States.

Recently it was the root of an epidemic in northern Michigan, causing Marquette County Health Department officials to declare an emergency public health order when they tallied 13 emergency room visits by people high on the drug from November 2010 to February. There were two deaths.

via Bath salts: The newest, most dangerous, designer drug – Midland Daily News: News.

CDC Vital Signs – Making Health Care Safer: Stopping C. difficile Infections

People getting medical care can catch serious infections called health care-associated infections (HAIs). While most types of HAIs are declining, one – caused by the germ C. difficile* – remains at historically high levels. C. difficile causes diarrhea linked to 14,000 American deaths each year. Those most at risk are people, especially older adults, who take antibiotics and also get medical care. When a person takes antibiotics, good germs that protect against infection are destroyed for several months. During this time, patients can get sick from C. difficile picked up from contaminated surfaces or spread from a health care provider’s hands. About 25% of C. difficile infections first show symptoms in hospital patients; 75% first show in nursing home patients or in people recently cared for in doctors’ offices and clinics. C. difficile infections cost at least $1 billion in extra health care costs annually.

via CDC Vital Signs – Making Health Care Safer: Stopping C. difficile Infections.

Five Steps to a Healthier Workforce and Lower Health Care Costs

We have found that the key to a successful wellness strategy is to implement a process that follows the 5 steps of risk management.

* Identify risk with Health Risk Assessment at over 90% participation without paying employees to complete one. (high participation is key and where most wellness plans fail)

* Analyze the HRA summary to identify your populations 4 key risk factors along with health plan and work comp claim data. (without high participation in the health Risk Assessments this information may not be credible)

* Control risk by implementing a customized health and wellness strategy which includes face to face or telephonic coaching to encourage behavior change. (without behavior change there will be no savings)

 * Finance risk by matching the right benefit plan design to assure that any savings go to the employer instead of the insurance company.(we have been successful in getting work comp carriers to give savings upfront by demonstrating successful implementation of the first 3 steps)

* Measure results by benchmarking how many risk factors each employee has in 3 groups low, medium and high. Most groups start at around 50% low risk and will move up to 70% low risk in 3 to 4 years.

Fewer risk factors leads to less disease and lower cost.

The Total Value of Health

The total value of health is much more than just medical/hospital & drug costs yet that is what most employers concentrate on. Add to the list absenteeism,  disability, worker’s comp, effectiveness on job, recruitment, retention &  morale of a workforce. To be effective employers must deploy strategies that keep their employees heathy& safe at home and at work. This will have a huge positive impact on a company’s bottom line.

Ten Steps to Manage Work Stress

  1. Improve your time management and organization skills.
  2. Of the many things you can to in this area the best ones include getting a to do list that works, learning to say “no”, asking for help when you need it, and stop setting unrealistic goals for yourself.
  3. Relax and breathe deeply.
    Whether you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount or work you have to do or if someone is “in your face”, a good thing to do is to “breathe through your nose”. You can’t get as worked up if you force yourself to breathe through your nose. Your body simply can’t maintain the same level of energy without that extra oxygen you get when breathing through your mouth.
  4. Take more breaks from your work.
    Even a five-minute break will help. Get away from your desk. Go for a walk – outside is better, but up two flights of stairs and back down is good too. Getting more exercise in general will help you reduce your overall stress levels and that will make it easier to reduce your stress level at work.
  5. Lighten up.
    Smile more. We all know laughter reduces stress. You will be amazed at how much more pleasant the people around you are when you make an effort to be pleasant yourself.
  6. Learn to listen better.
    Rather than getting upset when others disagree with you, listen actively and find the areas of agreement. Be assertive and stand up for yourself, but don’t be rigid.
  7. Fix your environment.
    Make whatever adjustments you need to the lighting, temperature, noise level, and other controllable factors in your office.
  8. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
    Realize that there are some things that just aren’t worth worrying about and there are some things you just can’t change. Don’t waste time stressing over the things in either category.
  9. Get more sleep.
    This is another of the things you can do to reduce your overall stress that will have benefits at the office as well. In addition to reducing your stress, it will increase your energy level and your ability to concentrate.
  10. Find a mentor
    If not a mentor, a friend will do. Having someone to talk to can take a lot of stress off you.
  11. Spend more time with optimistic people.
    Negative people will pull you down to their level. Choose to work with people who have a positive attitude instead.

CDC – Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders – NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic

Ergonomics is the scientific study of people at work. The goal of ergonomics is to reduce stress and eliminate injuries and disorders associated with the overuse of muscles, bad posture, and repeated tasks. This is accomplished by designing tasks, work spaces, controls, displays, tools, lighting, and equipment to fit the employee´s physical capabilities and limitations.

via CDC – Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders – NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic.

The Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health & Sports, and the Michigan Fitness Foundation

Governor Snyder’s 4×4 Plan for Health Aims to Build a Stronger Michigan

Every Michigander has a role to play in improving the health of our state. Governor Rick Snyder announced his vision for building a stronger Michigan on September 14. The Governor indicated that health and wellness is the foundation for Michigan’s economic transformation as well as overall quality of life, and that each Michigan citizen who takes responsibility for his or her health will make a difference for our state.

As a part of his presentation, he laid out the Michigan 4×4 Plan, which encourages all Michiganders to practice four key healthy behaviors:

  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Engage in regular exercise
  • Get an annual physical examination
  • Avoid all tobacco use

In conjunction with these key healthy behaviors, we should all be aware of four key health measures that are closely tied to the incidence of chronic disease:

  • Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol level
  • Blood sugar level

“By taking responsibility for our health and making a commitment to Governor Snyder’s 4×4 plan, each Michigander is able to make a difference for our state,” said Marilyn Lieber, president and CEO of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, and the Michigan Fitness Foundation. “We can all do our part to lift Michigan up and improve health status, the economy and ultimately quality of life in our state.”

The Governor’s announcement addressed a number of health issues, including obesity, chronic disease and health care costs. The online “dashboard” for health and wellness can be found on Governor Snyder’s website.