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Jul 14 2014
Bringing chronic disease management to the workplace
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Organizations are constantly trying to better manage care of their employees with chronic diseases – the roughly 20 percent who account for nearly 80 percent of the $2.5 trillion spent on U.S. healthcare. These individuals – called chronic because their heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol or other condition seemingly never goes away entirely – also account for about 70 percent of U.S. deaths.

The positive news is there are several initiatives in place to help manage chronic diseases and lower total healthcare expenses.

In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched the National Healthy Worksite Program to help organizations develop and implement health protection, and promote strategies. The program is designed to:

  • Reduce the risk of chronic disease among employees and their families through evidence-based workplace health interventions and promising practices.
  • Promote sustainable and replicable workplace health activities.
  • Promote healthy mentoring.

In addition, the University of Georgia will use a $3.15 million grant to study how chronic disease management in the workplace can improve employee health and overall wellness. The study will expand upon the National Council on Aging’s Chronic Disease Self-Management Program which utilizes highly interactive small-group workshops over six weeks to help chronic patients address pain management, nutrition, exercise and medication use.

While encouraging to see resources dedicated to improving workplace health and disease management, the truth is a majority of organizations already offer wellness programs. This can mean as little as conducting a health risk assessment (HRA), providing recommendations on how to lower risk by exercising, quitting tobacco use or using a health coach; or a full-fledged onsite wellness program with a healthcare provider, screenings and educational programs.

Incorporating disease management coaching into wellness efforts has proven to be effective. Holy Family Memorial’s two-year program with employees created dramatic improvements with employees reaching their individual goals related to high blood pressure and diabetes; including a 27 percent improvement for those with high cholesterol.

Research conducted on thousands of PepsiCo employees over several years showed that for each dollar invested, disease management saved an average of $3.78, compared with 48 cents for lifestyle offerings; and combining both disease management with wellness programs saved $1.46 for every dollar invested.

A friend was diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago at age 43. He has invested time with his healthcare provider on coaching to improve; and understands improvement also relates to other population health factors. Changing his behaviors by exercising and eating healthier account for 30 percent of this issue, while the social and economic factors related to his job can be 40 percent of the issue as he travels often, causing lack of exercise and unhealthy eating.

A comprehensive investment in a wellness and disease management program in collaboration with individual health improvements and a healthcare provider partnership create the best ROI for all involved to continue to improve employees’ health – and subsequently your bottom line.


David Yeghiaian is Corporate Development Director at Holy Family Memorial. Reach him at
dyeghiaian@hfmhealth.org.


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