Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure are the biggest drivers of health care costs, so a healthy workforce may help the bottom line, as well as improve employee morale and workplace retention.

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Currently, the overall health of America’s workforce is mixed with worrisome trends. Cardiovascular disease and stroke rates are declining because of effective treatment and prevention. However, the prevalence of obesity and diabetes in adults remains high. Even though adult smoking rates have declined, approximately 18 percent of adults — 42 million people — still smoke. High blood pressure affects one in three adults, yet less than half have their blood pressure controlled.

Four behaviors — not smoking, eating healthfully, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight — are the keys to preventing and many chronic diseases and managing these disease once diagnosed. So, with an estimated 155-million working-age adults in this country, it is logical to also focus on the workplace to make a difference.

"Workplace wellness programs can be a win-win for employees and employers. Those who feel encouraged by company leaders to participate in wellness initiatives reported better overall health and job satisfaction."

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Comprehensive workplace wellness programs grounded in science and fully implemented have been shown to improve employee health, reduce absenteeism and generate savings from reduced healthcare costs. While 77 percent of employers recently reported having “workplace wellness” program, a program’s existence doesn’t mean it’s effective. It’s all about how programs are designed, carried out and measured.

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We believe the best programs are rooted in science and have seen evidence of their impact. The American Heart Association’s CEO Roundtable is made up of 23 CEOs representing the country’s biggest employers and provides a forum for science-based initiatives around healthy workplaces. Together, these CEOs have committed to actively serve as role models for healthy living and to help drive a culture of health in the workplace. The CEOs are focusing on the AHA’s prescription for health called Life’s Simple 7 – a scientifically validated measure of cardiovascular health and a pathway to achieve ideal cardiovascular health. It comprises the four behaviors previously mentioned (not smoking, healthy weight, eating healthy and being physically active) and three important biometric measures: blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. People who meet three to four of Life’s Simple 7 heart health measures reduce their risk of heart-related death by more than half. Not enough people know their Life’s Simple 7 status, which can be addressed by employers.

However, it is not enough to hold health fairs and set aside time for health screenings. Employers can do much better by creating an integrated culture of health where employees know their biometric numbers and feel supported in doing the seven things that improve cardiovascular health.

A recent Nielsen survey released by the AHA showed that workplace wellness programs can be a win-win for employees and employers. The survey showed that those who feel encouraged by company leaders to participate in wellness initiatives reported better overall health and job satisfaction. Forty-nine percent said wellness programs make a company extremely or very attractive.

Keeping a happy and healthy workforce may be good for employees – but it also is good for business.