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Workplace Wellness Seems to Really Work
Date:9/30/2009

Investing in employee health cuts medical costs and ups productivity, heart experts say

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Workplace wellness programs are an effective way to reduce major risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, says a new American Heart Association policy statement.

Each year, heart disease costs the United States about $304.6 billion, the association says. Companies spend 25 to 30 percent of their annual medical costs on employees with significant health risks, mainly because of their increased likelihood of experiencing heart disease and stroke, it says.

But the financial burden also falls on workers, it says, in the form of higher premiums, co-pays and deductibles, reduction or elimination of coverage and trade-offs between insurance benefits and wage or salary increases.

"Research shows that companies can save anywhere from $3 to $15 for every $1 spent on health and wellness within 12 to 18 months of implementing a [workplace wellness] program," the statement's lead author, Mercedes Carnethon, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a news release from the heart association.

"Beyond cost savings and increased productivity, visionary employers are realizing the value of an employee's total health," she said. "An effective worksite wellness program can attract exceptional employees, enhance morale and reduce organizational conflict."

More than 130 million Americans are employed, according to the association, which means that workplace wellness programs have the potential to reach a sizable population.

"We are making great strides in workplace wellness, but we also know that half of employees don't have access to these programs, mainly because they work in small companies or for employers that have a small number of employees at multiple s
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