Employers Turn To Health Promotion Programs

July 31, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Looking to rein in the escalating health-care costs and enhance the overall health of the workforce, the majority of large employers in the US are now offering health promotion and disease management programs.

Prevention appears to be the name of the game for the majority of employers. In fact, 76% now offer health screenings – physical or biomedical tests that screen for specific health conditions, performed when symptoms are not present, to detect disease or health risks that might lead to disease, according to Hewitt Associates’ Health Promotion/Managed Health Provided by Major U.S. Employers in 2002-2003 study.

The study found the tests themselves are conducted onsite (15%), through the medical plan (25%) or by both methods (60%). In particular, employers are encouraging employees and dependents to participate in age-appropriate cancer and general health screenings for early detection and treatment that can potentially lead to better outcomes.

Continuing with the prevention technique, more than seven out of 10 employers (71%) offer education and training programs to encourage employees to assume greater responsibility for their health choices and to promote a healthy lifestyle. Also, 29% are offering health risk appraisals.

The appraisals ask participants to complete health history questionnaires, which are then used to preventable health conditions. Taking it one step further, health risk appraisals are increasingly being used as a referral mechanism for condition management or other health promotion initiatives.

For those employees in which a condition has already been identified, 75% of employers are providing or plan to providedisease management/condition management programs to employees in 2003. These programs generally cover a wide range of diseases including asthma, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Financial Network

With employers eyeing an overall healthier workforce, it is little surprise that the use offinancial incentives/disincentives over the past nine years has increased dramatically from 14% in 1993 to 40% in 2002. The programs seek to encourage modification of behavior and can take the form of reimbursement for weight control programs or monetary rewards for participating in a health risk appraisal or a fitness program.

Additionally, the vast majority of companies (83%) in the survey offer additional initiatives that are designed to heighten employee awareness of healthy behaviors or to provide an opportunity or incentive for employees to become involved in a health activity. Some of the initiatives include offering:

  • a smoke-free workplace (57%)
  • health fairs (42%)
  • onsite employer-owned fitness facilities (36%)
  • employer-sponsored sports teams/tournaments (29%).

Copies of Hewitt’s survey are available for purchase from the Information Desk at (847) 295-5000 orinfodesk@hewitt.com.