By Noelle Graf
The United States spends more on healthcare than any other nation – about $3 trillion annually. As the largest providers of health coverage in the U.S., many companies have initiated workplace wellness programs in an effort to control these costs.
A report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce revealed that chronic illness accounts for 75-percent of annual healthcare expenditures. While chronic diseases place a huge economic demand on healthcare costs, these diseases are among the most preventable.
The growing health problem of obesity
Obesity continues to be a growing problem in the U.S. During a recent consensus of 80,000 biometric screenings it was revealed that 37 percent of employees are obese. In addition to well-known risks such as diabetes and heart disease, the health implications of obesity also include a wide range of digestive diseases. According to Dr. Steven Desautels of Granite Peaks Gastroenterology, these issues can include Barrett’s esophagus, GERD, nonalcoholic fatty liver, gallstones and severe pancreatitis. The impact chronic disease has on employer healthcare costs is astronomical, yet these preventable diseases are often controllable through nutrition and exercise efforts.
Healthier choices in the office can lower healthcare costs
With such a high percentage of healthcare costs attributed to poor health, employers are beginning to realize the importance of creating a healthier workplace environment.
The often-cited Health Affairs study shows medical costs dropping $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs, and absenteeism costs falling by about $2.73 for every dollar spent.
Implementing employee wellness programs can help reduce healthcare expenditures. One simple change companies can make available to employees is the availability of healthier food options such as those found in healthy vending machines. When it’s taken into consideration that full-time employees consume approximately 43 percent of their daily snacks and meals during the workday, it’s easy to see how the nutritional content of food consumed during the workday can have a significant impact on overall health.
Healthier employees feel better and take less time off from work, reducing absenteeism and increasing productivity. Companies benefit from a healthier workforce by reduced health care costs and increased productivity. When done right, employee wellness programs bring enormous benefits to the workplace.