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Making the Case: Workplace Wellness

The following points help support why businesses should make workplace wellness a priority, as well as tools/resources that can be useful when negotiating for workplace wellness programming:

  • Inactivity costs between $670-1,125 per person, per year (Economic Costs of Obesity and Inactivity, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 1999).

  • The total cost of obesity to U.S. companies is estimated at $13 billion per year (Prevention Makes Common Cents: Estimated Economic Costs of Obesity to U.S. Business, Department of Health and Human Services, 2003).

  • Costs due to poor nutrition and physical inactivity are being shouldered by both private and public employers in the form of lost productivity and health insurance. (Steps To A Healthier Salinas).

  • Each health risk an employee has equates to a 2.4% loss in on-the-job productivity.

  • Large employers spent over $8,000 per employee on health in 2004.

  • Health insurance premiums have been increasing faster than overall inflation and workers earnings since 1999.

  • Presenteeism may account for 18% to 60% of employee costs.  World Health Organization data from the Health and Workforce Questionnaire 2005 show that presenteeism costs may account for 74% of total costs.

  • Recent surveys of local businesses sponsored by have shown that there is an overall belief system that healthier employees have lower health insurance costs, lending credibility to the financial importance of businesses focusing on the “health” issue.

    2 Ryung Suh, MD, MPP, MPH An Aging Workforce: Health-Related Productivity and the Economic Value of Health Promotion for Medscape, Highlights of the American Occupational Health Conference August 25, 2006.

  • Employer Health Coalition, Business and Health Institute provide the following estimated annual costs associated with these chronic conditions in the workplace:

    Chronic Condition: Annual Cost

    Depression: $ 880,152

    Hypertension: $ 520,884

    Asthma: $ 275,808

    Diabetes: $ 187,200

    Heart Disease: $ 148,512

  • Refer to report: The Economic Costs of Physical Inactivity, Obesity, and Overweight in California Adults: Heath Care, Workers’ Compensation, and Lost Productivity

    This topline report by the California Department of Health Services, examines the link between physical inactivity, obesity, and overweight as it relates to heath care, workers’ compensation, and lost productivity. The findings highlight the rapid increase in costs related to physical inactivity, obesity, and overweight among California adults and identifies the potential for significant cost savings.

    Topline report

    Full Technical report.

  • The following are helpful tools to use when trying to make a case for workplace wellness initiatives:

    ?  Stanford Presenteeism Scale

    ?  American Productivity Audit

    ?  Work Productivity and Activity Impairment Questionnaire

    ?  Work Limitation Questionnaire as part of a Health Risk Appraisal

    ?  Absence Multipliers (tool to evaluate costs of absenteeism).  Mean absence multiplier is 1.61.  Median absence multiplier is 1.28.

  • Components to measure the impact of health and productivity programs include:

    ?  Medical costs (from health plans, health service Utilization Reviews and Health Risk Appraisals),

    ?  Lost time data (from ST, LT disability, family and medical leave, and sick leave),

    ?  HR and payroll data (time reporting, employee surveys, performance appraisals and turnover data),

    ?  Worker’s Comp and safety data (from OSHA reporting, drug testing and claims data),

    ?  Productivity metrics (from staffing, self-reported presenteeism metrics,

    ?  Per-employee financial measures, and

    ?  Business data (from customer satisfaction, production data, quality metrics and revenue/cost information).

  • Key elements to workforce productivity and performance include: Absence management, Human capital management and Quality Improvements (QI’s) in product or service.

  • Health and Productivity Toolkit published by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) recommends these 6 factors be considered when designing health programs and benefits

    1.  One’s own time and money matter more to the individuals than someone else’s.

    2.  Nothing is free

    3.  What gets paid gets done

    4.  Incentives and disincentives always exist, influencing the general direction of behavior.

    5.  There is a reason the term “rational” has the word “ration” in it.

    6.  Employment is a human capital marketplace

  • Helpful Organizations:

    ?  American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM),

    ?  Institute of Health and Productivity Management (IHPM),

    ?  Integrated Benefits Institute, 

    ?  The Health as Human Capital Foundation, 

    ?  Disease Management Association of America (program evaluation guide),

    ?  Partnership for Prevention (Healthy Workforce 2010 Sourcebook, or 800-3674725.

    ?  Business Group on Health with the CDC and AHRQ, “Purchaser’s Guide to Clinical Preventive Services: Moving Science into Coverage” 

    ?  Center’s for Disease Control and Prevention-Healthier Worksite Initiative

  • Helpful Cost Calculators:

    Alcohol Misuse

    George Washington University Alcohol Treatment ROI Calculator


    Diabetes at Work, Conducting a Diabetes Assessment.  General Assessment Tool.

    Obesity and Physical Activity

    American Cancer Society ROI Calculator for Obesity and Physical Activity
    Magellan Health Services Obesity Cost Calculator


    American Cancer Society ROI Calculator for Tobacco

    America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Tobacco ROI calculator
    Free & Clear Employer and Health Plan ROI Calculator for Tobacco

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