With mounting pressure to do more with less, one can easily lose sight of what makes all human (and business) activity possible — health. The best tactics to maximize health and thereby boost profits are not to be found in the obvious places. In fact, if you only look in the headlines and the fads (including whatever your insurer wants to sell you this year), you may very well be charging off in the wrong direction.  

Many programs that vendors promote have shaky science behind them, or, worse, bogus results proving their worth. For example, you should immediately put up your guard when a vendor talks about “undetected claims costs.” These are, allegedly, dollars that would have been paid but for the vendor valiantly preventing them.

Many gospel truths in wellness have long been disproven in science. For example, one popular truism is that early detection is cheaper and saves lives. Therefore, every wellness program promotes getting screened for various cancers.  Yet, screening for many cancers does more harm than good — it leads to overtreatment, it exposes hundreds of people to radiation, it gives hundreds false results (either false negatives or false positives), and it does not lead to more survival for more patients. Breast cancer is the prime example of this phenomenon, but it applies to other cancers and illnesses as well.  

To truly maximize health, businesses have to push past the myths and seek out science-based tactics. The good news is there are proven tactics that an employer can use and that do not involve persuading or bribing people to “make healthier choices.” Few employers realize that the work environment itself has a huge impact on health. Taking steps to shape that environment will, for example, lower everyone’s blood pressure even if no one joins a gym.  

People who feel that they are treated fairly at work have lower blood pressure and less heart disease even if they have other lifestyle risks for those illnesses. That’s right — the employer can actually make a difference in how many heart attacks happen by making people feel valued and respected at work.  The employer has complete control over these issues, something it does not have over what employees eat, drink, or do on weekends.  

Companies that want more, better, and faster first have to have health.  It’s time to use the right tools to make that happen.  

Guest blogger Linda K. Riddell is a principal at Health Economy, LLC. She can be contacted at LRiddell@HealthEconomy.net. This story originally ran in Employee Benefit News’ Employee Benefit Views blog.

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