Rapidly rising healthcare costs, coupled with an epidemic increase in obesity rates, have led forward-thinking businesses to institute health promotion and wellness programs that can simultaneously improve their workers' health and reduce company spending.
To recognize organizations for efforts that produce documented health improvements and cost savings, The Health Project announced the winners of its 2012 C. Everett Koop National Health Award. This year's winners are the State of Nebraska and L.L. Bean, Inc.
Dr. C. Everett Koop, former surgeon general of the United States and honorary chairperson of The Health Project, commented that this year's awardees exemplify what employers can do to improve workers' health, while at the same time saving money. "Every company in America should look at these examples of model programs that keep workers safe and healthy and at the same time save unnecessary health care spending for potentially preventable health conditions," said Dr. Koop.
Through its "wellness options" initiative, the State of Nebraska offers a comprehensive package of services to more than 19,000 state employees and their spouses. The program provides Web-based resources, health risk assessments, onsite biometric screenings, and more. Employees have demonstrated significant improvements in physical activity, healthy diet, smoking cessation, and depression. Adherence rates for clinical preventive screenings also increased by 8.5 percentage points and a rigorous analysis showed a return-on-investment (ROI) of $2.70 for every dollar spent after 2 years.
L.L.Bean maintains a comprehensive health promotion program that reaches more than 5,000 employees, family members, and retirees. The "Healthy Bean" program includes wellness programming, free onsite fitness centers, and subsidies for off-site gym memberships. Additionally, L.L.Bean utilizes strong incentives for participation in a Health Risk Appraisal and provides a healthy work environment with tobacco free campuses and subsidies for healthy food options. Participation rates have averaged 85 percent over five years and smoking rates dropped from 24 percent in 1985 to 6 percent in 2011. From 2007 to 2010, L.L.Bean's healthcare expenditures increased an average of just 5.8 percent per year.
"Healthcare costs continue to grow, but some leading companies are doing something about it," said Chairman and Co-founder of The Health Project Carson Beadle. "They get to the heart of the problem with programs focused on avoiding sickness and accidents in the first place," he added. "People who practice healthy behaviors have fewer chronic diseases, lower healthcare costs and are usually happier, more productive employees."
The Health Project established the C. Everett Koop National Health Award in 1994, with Dr. Koop as its chairperson. Because of the rigorous standards required for documenting health improvements and cost savings, fewer than 60 organizations have been honored with this prestigious award since its inception. This year, 18 applications were submitted for review by The Health Project Board of Directors, a volunteer group of 16 experts in health promotion and disease prevention.
"We had a hard time selecting winners this year, given the large number of excellent submissions and noteworthy achievements detailed in the award applications," said Dr. Jim Fries, Chief Science Officer and Professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. "The winners have exemplary programs that follow evidence-based guidelines, achieve high participation rates, and show significant reductions in health risks alongside cost savings from their programs."
In addition to the two 2012 award winners, three organizations - BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Hunter Industries, and the University of Michigan - received honorable mention recognition. The awards will be presented on October 3, 2012, at the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) Forum in Minneapolis, MN. More information about the C. Everett Koop National Health Award winners is available at www.TheHealthProject.com.
Commenting on the need for effective worksite health improvement programs, Dr. Ron Goetzel, president and CEO of The Health Project noted, "For the U.S. to continue to be an economic leader worldwide, supported by a healthy and productive workforce, more companies need to implement evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention programs. The good news is that when done right, these programs not only make workers healthier, they can also produce a positive return on investment."