Helping members focus on proper diet, physical fitness, and overall lifestyle management — using behavioral counseling to help improve personal health and reduce overall health costs — are key components to a well-run workplace wellness program.
Do these efforts work?
The National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine investigated in their study “Behavioral Counseling to Promote a Healthy Lifestyle for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Persons With Cardiovascular Risk Factors.”
The authors “conducted a systematic evidence review of the benefits and harms of behavioral counseling interventions to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD) in persons with established risk factors.”
To conduct the study, the authors reviewed various trials and studies “from 2001 through October 2013 to locate relevant trials for all key questions published since the previous reviews in support of prior recommendations. We supplemented our searches with reference lists from relevant existing systematic reviews, suggestions from experts, and information from Clinicaltrials.gov to identify ongoing trials.”
Their conclusions are stark, especially in terms of potential positive impact across a range of risk factors. The conclusions provide guidance around the role that behavioral counseling might play in a well-run workplace wellness program.
They begin: “In general, medium- to high-intensity diet and physical activity behavioral counseling in persons with CVD risk factors resulted in consistent improvements across a variety of important cardiovascular intermediate health outcomes, including total and LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose, and weight outcomes up to 2 years. Overall, high-intensity combined lifestyle counseling can reduce diabetes incidence at 3 to 4 years.”
The authors continue: “Extrapolating from other bodies of literature, the improvements we observed in intermediate health outcomes could translate into long-term reduction in CVD events. It is unlikely that intensive counseling interventions have serious patient harms. Future research on behavioral counseling in this population should focus on the effectiveness of lower-intensity interventions and should consistently include self-reported measures of health-related QOL.”
Of course, the authors note: “The applicability of these findings depends largely on the availability of intensive counseling in practice and real-world fidelity and adherence to these interventions.”