Term Paper: Health and Wellness Programs

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Health and Wellness Programs

Research Proposes

More than Absence

Healthy Habits

Final Diagnosis

Health and Wellness Program examines the hypothesis: Although employees' health and productivity in public agencies in the southwest Georgia region are reported to be regularly enhanced by the impact of Health and Wellness Programs, limitations and delimitations are frequently overlooked or intentionally ignored. Consequently, this presents unanticipated problems as employers and employees may obtain unrealistic expectations and ensuing Health and Wellness Programs may be "set up" to fail.

Positive and negative program components, along with counters to potential failures of Health and Wellness programs are examined and presented in this paper.

HEALTH and WELLNESS PROGRAMS

Research Proposes

More Than the Absence

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

Constitution of the World Health Organization)

Seventy-five percent of United States health care dollars are spent on diseases caused by unhealthy lifestyles. Unhealthy lifestyles, according to Aetna, not only cost employees, but adversely affect employers, as well.

Research proposes that when employers invest in employee wellness and health promotion, they will also likely receive substantial payoffs. ("Aetna Health Connections (SM)...") "Ninety-one percent of all diabetes cases, 80-90% of all heart attacks and 30-70% of all cancers are completely preventable through lifestyle changes," research purports. According to the Framingham Health Study, individuals who engaged in more physical activity lived 1.3 to 3.7 years longer than those who exercised little, primarily because the development of heart disease was delayed. Employees' clinical depression constitutes another costly problem in the American workplace as more than 19 million American adults (9.5% of the population) were estimated to suffer from this disorder in 2001. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study discovered that depression costs American industry $43.7 billion each year; estimating $23.8 billion of the total to be from lost work time.".. due to absenteeism and reduced productivity, $7.5 billion in lost earnings due to depression related suicide and $12.4 billion in direct care costs. Costs could mount even further if a worker's untreated depression contributes to alcoholism, drug abuse or other physical or mental disorders." (Paul)

Staying physically and mentally healthy benefits employers and consumers, Meg McCabe, head of the Aetna Medical Product Business Unit contends. "Programs that promote health can impact worker wellness and productivity... can reduce employer costs related to health benefit claims, sick leave, absenteeism, disability and worker's compensation." ("Aetna Health Connections (SM)..." 2006) Other incentives for employers who sponsor Aetna's plan range from "from general wellness counseling and weight management, to a new smoking cessation program." Ibid.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two thirds of America's adults are overweight while approximately a third of are obese. Diabetes, cancer and heart disease, along with other chronic diseases that adversely affect the lives of 90 million Americans are and generally preventable by eating nutritious foods, engaging in physical activities and avoiding tobacco use. (Conway, et al.) to counter these statistics, employers who sponsor health plans have begun to also adopt wellness programs, offering incentives for employees to lead healthier lifestyles.

Through a 2003 study of nine major employers who implemented a wellness program, the Department of Health & Human Services determined that for every these employers invested into their wellness programs, returns ranged from $1.49 to $4.91. As this paper examines the hypothesis, "Although employees' health and productivity in public agencies in the southwest Georgia region are reported to be regularly enhanced by the impact of Health and Wellness Programs, limitations and delimitations are frequently overlooked or intentionally ignored," the primary problem of health and wellness programs is revealed. Often, research shows, problems employers did not anticipate and/or plan for "set up" programs intended to be positive for failure. The purpose of this study is to examine and study positive and negative components related to health and wellness programs.

Definitions

CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Gemeinschaftsgefuehl, a term with no literal translation, which means "social interest"

HRAs: Health risk assessments are also known as health screenings. Insurance plans utilize HRAs to educate individuals about health risk factors to help prevent disease, and assist employers in determining the most beneficial programs to help improve employees' health. Participants are given recommendations for results for improving/decreasing identified risk factors.

WHP: workplace health promotion

WEL: Wellness Evaluation of Lifestyle (WEL

WoW: Wheel of Wellness

II. Literature Review

Healthy Habits

Health is the vital principle of bliss,

And exercise, of health.

Thompson)

Aetna's (NYSE:AET) current health and medical management strategy includes incentive programs to provide information, personal support and discounts to encourage members, which will consequently also include employees of employers who purchase Aetna's insurance, to actively achieve or maintain optimal health. Along with providing programs facilitating interactions with clinical professionals to increase members' understandings of their current health risks, members will also begin to establish and/or meet personal goals to lower their risks and maintain good health. Wellness Programs, to encourage preventive care, also offer online information and tools. ("Aetna Health Connections (SM)..." 2006) Aetna's plans for 2007 include "Simple Steps to a Healthier Life (R) program which offers an online health assessment, as well as information." (Ibid) Focus will include "how to:

Eat right,

Get in shape,

Lose weight,

Cope better with stress, and Other health issues." (Ibid)

Aetna reports that its 2007 wellness offerings cover four main categories:

1. Wellness Outreach includes: Healthy Body, Healthy Weight Program (R); Smoking cessation program, Wellness Counseling; Informed Health (R) Line (24-hour nurse information communication tool).

2. Online Self-Help Tools include: Simple Steps to a Healthier Life®; InteliHealth (R); Healthwise (R) Knowledgebase and Women's Health Online.

3. Workplace Programs & Mailings include: Onsite health screenings (start October 2006);

Health awareness campaigns; Health education workshops; Preventative Care Mailings

And information on ways to better communicate doctors/health care professionals; expanded workplace; English and Spanish educational, health focused CD-ROM, addressing health and wellness topics.

4. Benefits, Discounts and Rewards include: More incentives for healthy

Lifestyles (discounts for weight loss/health services and products ("Aetna Health Connections (SM)..." 2006)

Paul reports that employee depression presents a current costly and pervasive challenge to today's employers. At a minimum,.".. depression sets up neural roadblocks to the processing of information and keeps us from responding to life's challenges." (Ibid) Although technology and research contribute to understanding some aspects of depression, myths, unknowns regarding specific causes and cures continue to create workplace concerns, which include:

Higher health insurance costs

Higher absenteeism and turnover

Declining productivity

Poor interpersonal relations

Cognitive decline

Reduced information processing

Low motivation and slowed movements

Loss of interest and goal focus

Reduced ability to think and concentrate

Impaired short-term memory

Reduced ability to adapt to change and see alternatives

Increased number and severity of accidents

Higher workers compensation insurance costs

Increased alcohol and drug abuse

Anxiety and overreaction to stress

Reduced morale and job satisfaction

Increased tendency to focus on negative events

Reduced desire to cooperate. (Paul)

Along with saying money for the company or business, increased insight into causes of depression can help employers better help their employees to cope with and counter depression. Although all factors contributing to depression are not clear, potential causes can include personal and workplace environments; stress; individual inherited factors; prior physical or sexual abuse; smoking.

Neither causes of depression or other health concerns, however, cannot be controlled by employers' programs. Successes, as well as, delimitations are contingent on employees participating and adhering to health-related principles.

Future jobs for those who manage health and wellness programs are expected to be plentiful as this field is predicted to expand through 2012. Health care, as well as wellness, management reportedly provides top pay, great benefits and stability due to the current increase focus on preventative care. ("Health Care Managers Are" NA) Just as medical and health services managers need to be familiar with health and wellness programs' principals and practices, employees need to be familiar with what's available from their employers. They also need to utilize what's available. Another limitation, however, could be employee's time constraints.

Minter argues that looking out for employees' best interests in regard to health and wellness begins with employers' managers. He cites Dennis Hussey, Ph.D., director, environmental health and safety for Goodrich Corporation, to state: "If you look at any candid discussion about the health and safety function and how to really create a culture where the employee's health and safety is the critical concern, it always starts with management commitment. My communicating what we want to accomplish, how we want to accomplish it and getting management to endorse it, support it, participate in it -- that's what I mean by communicating the vision." Headaches frequently accompany safety and health programs in the workplace, according to safety pros who claimed to have world-class safety and health programs, Minter also reports. Tight resources, confirmed by a 2005 National Safety Survey, reveal still another limitation of health and wellness programs. This particular online survey, utilizing responses from 1400 plus safety and health personnel revealed the "headache" of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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