wellness digest — week of mar 14

March 21, 2011

in wellness digest

a recap of last week’s wellness and other interesting news:

1. what employers don’t spend for health will cost them

this health affairs post from the president of the integrated benefits institute talks about the “opportunity” costs from illness, costs that show up in lower productivity or overtime to cover understaffing and absences.

“And therein lies a problem: while managers are all too aware of the frictional costs of illness—in time, effort, morale, and unrealized output—CFOs (chief financial officers) and other financial professionals are guided by revenues and expenses that show up on the books.

“This disconnect leads many business leaders to miss the reality that the money they spend on their workers’ health is an investment from which they should demand reasonable returns.”

2. americans without health insurance rise to 52 million on job loss, expense

this bloomberg article reports on a commonwealth fund study examining the current health care landscape and the affordable care act. the rising number of uninsured is striking; so, too, is the number who had difficulty paying for care.

“Losses of coverage helped swell the ranks of uninsured adults in the U.S. to 52 million in 2010, according to a study released today by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based foundation that says it backs research aimed at expanding and improving care. An additional 73 million adults had difficulties paying for health care and 75 million deferred treatment because they couldn’t afford it, researchers said.”

3. home, sweet home

carol harnett—a health consultant, journalist and cohealth member—explores the concept of an employer-provided patient-centered medical home (PCMH), an approach that has provided better outcomes and lowered costs for both the individual and the employer.

“The document [the joint principles of the patient-centered medical home] describes seven principles, which comprise the PCMH: a personal physician; a physician-directed medical practice; whole-person orientation; coordinated or integrated care; quality and safety; enhanced access to care; and payment for value instead of episodes.”

notes: i visited CIGNA’s integrated personal health team in eden prairie, MN and was really fired up by what i learned and saw. the approach to the whole person is already returning dividends to a client, who’s bringing all of their employees onto the service this year. for more on the subject, read this post from my good friend and colleague, jane sarasohn-kahn.

4. scientists bank on stress-health link

continuing with the notion of “the whole-person orientation,” this article and a super interesting read from the new yorker, the poverty clinic, share research on the psychological stress-health link and new treatments that use this knowledge. the linked article covers the company behind a new DNA test that examines a patient’s current health, particularly DNA strands, called “telomeres,” that fray as a response to sustained psychological stress. the new yorker article explores several studies linking childhood trauma (abusive parents, abandonment and so forth) to increased negative health outcomes and introduces one california-based practice using this information to guide treatment.

“Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have been at the forefront of an emerging medical field that seeks to identify and help treat problems caused by stress. Now, these scientists hope to market their findings to physicians in the form of a test that can act as a personal report card on patients’ health.”

5. weekly wrap: a new workplace trend—mandatory tests for smokers

this TLNT post explores the issues of privacy and boundaries (a theme and tension i wrote about at south by southwest) in light of a public county requiring saliva nicotine tests. with other companies simply not hiring smokers at all, one has to wonder which route will gain steam—let alone which will deliver better health and not outraged employees.

“The required nicotine tests represent a ramping up of the employee monitoring process, because ‘in the past, Maricopa County’s health plan asked employees to fill out paperwork declaring they do not use nicotine. But county officials said the number of employees who self-reported as nicotine users appeared to be too low. They implemented the saliva testing as an attempt to ‘put some accountability in the program,’ said Chris Bradley, director of the county’s Business Strategies and Healthcare Program.’”

6. calorie trackers: when a kati roll is like a burrito

the app world is inundated with self-tracking tools for curiosity, amusement and change. this wall street journal article runs down the pros and cons of four calorie-counting tools—information to pass on and test with your employees?!

“Overall, we found the sites’ data useful and a nice wake-up call for the poor nutritional quality of some of our meals. We were surprised our fat consumption was 50% of our daily intake on several days. The sites also pointed out the differences in what we consumed on the weekends compared to the rest of the week.”

7. AP stylebook finally changes e-mail to email

note the “finally” in the title. for real! proofreaders, editors and others love the AP stylebook, but that doesn’t mean its laws are sacrosanct. when the majority of your employees are writing email and website (another recently changed word), consider throwing grammatical caution to the wind and using these forms yourself or risk being viewed as old-fashioned and out of touch.

i’ll end with a question: “what other antiquated terms do you want to see modified or retired?” let me know in the comments.

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