Prevention improves a small business bottom line

Small businesses play a significant role in the U.S. economy: More than 99 percent of American employers have fewer than 500 employees. Healthy employees are good for business, but high insurance costs mean that these companies struggle to provide health insurance for their workers.

In my experience as a physician and a specialist in occupational health and preventive medicine, I have found that insurance alone does not produce healthier people. Unhealthy lifestyles lead to chronic illnesses and help drive rising health care costs and companies costs. Research shows that absences and decreased work performance due to chronic illness cost businesses more than twice the amount spent on medical care for those illnesses.

It doesn’t have to be this way. More than 80 percent of heart disease and diabetes cases are preventable if people avoid tobacco use, eat nutritious foods and exercise regularly. Workplace wellness programs can help employees be healthier, have more energy and be more engaged in their work. Therefore, businesses should consider worksite wellness and prevention strategies as an investment.

The Prevention Plan

One option for tracking and encouraging worker health is a wellness plan for small businesses a personalized, step-by-step wellness program. For example, The Prevention Plan, available through Sams Club, includes blood work and health appraisals to assess employee risk factors, recommendations such as exercise and dietary changes, personal coaching and online support tools.

Small companies have found that their employees embrace the plan and enjoy significant health improvements. A study published in Population Health Management, a peer-reviewed journal, evaluated the impact of The Prevention Plan on employee health risks. It showed that employees significantly improved their health risk factors (including blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and stress) after one year of participation.

Other studies have shown that people taking advantage of health care initiatives are more likely to use technology, especially smart phone apps, to track their behavior, do research and measure success.

Ben Franklin said, An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The pursuit of health and well-being is something we can and should do not out of the fear of death and disability but the desire for a longer, more vital life.

Ron Loeppke, M.D., M.P.H., is vice chairman of U.S. Preventive Medicine. He is board certified in preventive medicine, trained in occupational medicine and a fellow of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the American College of Preventive Medicine.