Corporate Wellness Efforts Find Specific Targets

March 12, 2009 ( - Not only are corporate wellness programs more common than ever before, employers are becoming more sophisticated in how they work with employees with specific chronic diseases to develop healthier lifestyles.

A Hewitt Associates news release about its latest corporate wellness poll of 343 large employers found that approximately 80% of responding companies were targeting specific health conditions in their employees, up from 51% a year ago.

Hewitt said the trend is designed to go beyond general condition management programs to pinpoint and then reduce employees’ most prevalent chronic illnesses that cost employers millions in claims. For diabetes alone, for example, Hewitt estimates that a typical employer with 9,500 employees and 500 pre-65 retirees spends $18 million to $22 million on direct medical care for its diabetic population.

The number of employers targeting diabetes and cardiovascular disease increased by almost 30%, to 75% and 70%, respectively. Additionally, 56% of companies are targeting asthma, up from 36% in 2008, and almost a third (32%) are targeting depression, up from just 17% in 2008, Hewitt said.

“The U.S. health care system spends enormous sums of money caring for those with chronic conditions, leaving both individuals and employers to bear much of the costs,” said Kathy Harte, co-leader of Hewitt’s Health & Clinical Consulting practice, in the announcement. “There is a significant opportunity for companies, particularly in today’s economic environment, to control these expenses and improve the overall health of their workforce by helping chronically ill employees and their dependents optimize treatments for their conditions.”

However, the Hewitt research shows only a small percentage of workers eligible to participate in condition management programs actually do so. Even fewer are actually satisfied with the programs’ results.