Preventing, Reversing, and Slowing the Progression of Chronic Disease in the Workplace through Dedicated Health Coaches

Chronic disease has become an epidemic in our country and is now the leading cause of death and disability. Research shows that 80% of healthcare cost are related to chronic conditions, or $3.7 trillion each year. For employers, that adds up to $36.5 billion a year just from employees missing days of work. And that doesn’t include the cost of reduced productivity. 

 

But there is good news. Employers now have the opportunity through dynamic health and well-being programs to help employees reduce the risk of chronic disease. For those already living with chronic disease, these programs help them better manage their conditions. They also significantly reduce costs for employers 

The most effective programs are those that include dedicated health coaches to help personalize the program for each participant and to help guide and support them along their journey to better health. No two participants will have the same experience. Each participant’s journey is personalized based on their lifestyle, genetics, preferences, and personality 

Following are three top chronic conditions and a description of how they impact on employers, as well as how health coaches can help. 

Diabetes 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 34.2 million Americans have diabetes. That’s 10% of the population. Another 88 million—nearly one-third—are considered prediabetic. The cost to employers is a staggering $20.4 billion annually due to absenteeism. The health complications for those living with diabetes can be devastating, especially from diabetic foot ulcers.  

How Coaching Helps 

Today’s dynamic health and well-being programs can be designed specifically to meet the needs of those at risk of diabetes. The most effective programs provide dedicated health coaches to help guide and support the program participant and provide accountabilityWhile health coaches cannot take the place of a medical professional, they can help participants create new habits for eating better and exercising, which can help prevent and reduce insulin resistance, reverse and slow diabetes, and lower weight.  

Health coaches work one-on-one with participants to help lower the risk for diabetes by: 

  • Adjusting nutrition plans and incorporating lower glycemic foods to stabilize blood glucose levels 
  • Adding daily cardio and strength-training routines 
  • Implementing steps to improve sleep 
  • Identifying triggers and proving coping skills to help work through challenges 
  • Providing tools to help identify and manage emotional eating 

 

“The support of my Inspirator [coach] made a big difference in my life. I was able to reduce my A1C from 15.9 to 6.4 in six months!”  

 

Hypertension and Heart Disease 

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the devastating impact of comorbidities on outcomes of those who catch the virus, especially cardiovascular diseaseIn the early stages of the pandemic, the virus was primarily considered to be a respiratory illness. But as the virus spread, we learned that patients with cardiovascular disease suffered the highest mortality of all others with the virus. But even before the pandemic, cardiovascular disease was the top cause of mortality in the US, accounting for one-third of all deaths.  

Employees with cardiovascular disease: 

  •  Lose 56 more hours each year of productivity 
  • Cost at least $1,119 more a year in insurance 
  • Cause on average 13 lost workdays per year 

 

Absenteeism due to hypertension costs employers $10.3 billion each year. 

Cardiovascular disease has numerous causes, including diabetes, obesity, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol consumption. Outside of those born with a congenital condition leading to the disease, most other risk factors can be reduced through lifestyle and behavior modification.  

How Coaching Helps 

Just as with controlling and preventing diabetes, health coaches help reduce the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Through regular video phone calls, coaches can keep program participants encouraged and help them overcome challenges and work through difficult situations. Coaches also help keep participants accountable, which research shows is important to strengthening a person’s resilience and commitment, and to achieving long-lasting change. 

Health coaches support individuals with cardiovascular disease and risk factors through a personalized program that includes: 

  • Increased physical activity 
  • Nutritional recommendations, including a customized DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet 
  • Smoking cessation program if applicable 
  • Tools to help manage stress 

 

 “I am no longer on the verge of needing cholesterol or blood pressure medication. It’s been fantastic working with my Inspirator [coach].” 

 

Obesity 

According to the American Medical Association, more than one-third of Americans are obese. This means having a body mass index of 30 or higher. Being obese is significant factor contributing to heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, breathing problems, and even some forms of cancer. It’s also a leading cause of metabolic syndromeIndividuals with metabolic syndrome are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and/or have a stroke.  

The cost of obesity in the workplace is significant. 

  • Work-related injuries are 25% higher for obese employees than those of a healthy weight. 
  • Obese employees file twice as many compensation claims. 
  • Medical claim costs are 7 times higher for obese patients. 
  • Obese employees average 10 times more days off for illness or work-related injury. 

 

The good news is that even a small weight loss can create substantial health improvements. The National Institutes of Health reports that “a modest weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight is likely to produce health benefits, such as improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars.” 

How Coaching Helps 

Weight loss is typically the sole focus of health and well-being programs. But those that deliver the best, longest-lasting improvements are the ones that focus on more than just the numbers on the scale; they focus on improving mental and emotional health, nutrition, and fitness. Health coaches play an important role in designing a customized program for each participant.  

Health coaches help individuals meet their weight loss goals by: 

  • Focusing on positive behavior change and enhancing their quality of life 
  • Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques to help manage emotional eating 
  • Designing an eating program around healthy foods and balanced macronutrients 
  • Adding cardio and strength-training daily routine 
  • Implementing steps to improve sleep 

 

“We set our goal for 15 pounds in a year. My Inspirator [coach] kept me accountable. Just knowing that I was going to be talking to her really made a difference. I have lost 45 pounds in a year!” 

 

Investing in your employees’ health is investing in your bottom line. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most chronic diseases could be prevented or reversed through changes in lifestyle. Offering employees a dynamic health and well-being program that offers dedicated health coaches is a great way to show them you care about their lives beyond workplace. The best programs are those that are customizable for each participant’s lifestyle and health needs, focuses on creating small habit changes, and sets realistic goals that are achievable. 

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