health workplace wellness

Report Reviews Socioeconomic, Other Factors that Impact Health Conditions

A key component of any well-run workplace wellness program, of course, is helping keep employees healthy. Not only does this help improve personal health outcomes, but also it can help businesses manage health costs.

Now a new report addresses some important questions that can help well-run programs consider various aspects of ways to help employees:

  • “Why are some communities healthier than others?”
  • “Which factors are most important in keeping a population healthy: economics, healthy behaviors or access to quality care?”
  • “How does the importance of these factors change when measuring different health conditions?”

These questions are part of a recent report that “is the first of its kind to identify the health conditions with the most impact on the commercially insured, along with the socioeconomic factors that play into them, for every county in the U.S.,” according to MedPage Today.

The Moody’s Analytics report, “prepared for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), breaks down the links between social determinants of health and differences in health across communities.”

The report identifies three broad groupings of health conditions:

1) Physical health conditions: “Five of the 10 conditions in this study are categorized as physical health conditions: high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, hypertension, COPD, and diabetes. One characteristic these conditions have in common is that they strongly correlate with overall population health as measured by the BCBS Health Index. In other words, when a county is healthy overall, these five conditions have less impact on the health of the population (in terms of a reduced averaged number of years lived under optimal health). When a county is unhealthy overall, these conditions tend to have more impact on the health of the population.”

Importantly, physical health conditions are impacted by behavioral factors, too.

“There are adverse health impacts of these conditions in communities where physical inactivity is greater, where preventable hospital stays are more common, and — for some conditions — where smoking and obesity are more prevalent.”

2) Mental health conditions: “Mental health conditions studied in the report are hyperactivity and depression/ anxiety/affective disorder. These conditions have little correlation with overall health. Counties with low overall BCBS Health Indexes and high levels of other conditions are no more likely to have hyperactivity and depression than healthy counties. Mental health conditions lack a relationship with other conditions and the BCBS Health Index at the county level because they can be less obvious to diagnose and treat than physical health conditions.”

The report continues: “The relationship between mental health conditions with overall health suggests that they should be considered differently from physical health conditions. For instance, patients with higher socioeconomic status are more likely to receive a diagnosis of having a mental health condition. It appears that this diagnosis practice confounds the relationship between various population characteristics and mental health.”

3) Unique health conditions: These conditions might be most difficult for a workplace wellness program to address, though good health surely can’t hurt in addressing them.

The report states: “Unique conditions exist between the conditions in Groups 1 and 2, and each possess distinctive features. Group 3 comprises breast cancer, lung cancer, and substance abuse disorder. These conditions are somewhat correlated with overall health and are modestly related to socioeconomic and demographic factors, as well as genetics. Beyond those generalizations, however, these conditions each require individual attention and discussion.”

It continues: “Altogether, unique health conditions are somewhat driven by socioeconomic, demo- graphic and behavioral factors. However, each condition also has distinctive features — including treatment effects, low prevalence and genetics — that potentially qualify them for a different analysis method than that of other conditions.”

The report summary concludes: “The findings in this report show that demographic, behavioral and structural factors impact health conditions in different ways and that greater insight into these differences is critical to understanding county-level population health.”