February is American Heart Month, which makes the new study published in Health Affairs even more timely.
The study is titled “Workplace Programs, Policies, And Environmental Supports To Prevent Cardiovascular Disease,” and it looks at a “preliminary ‘snapshot’ of how the comprehensiveness of workplace cardiovascular health initiatives is related to measures of employees’ health risks, disease prevalence, and medical expenditures.”
For the study, the researchers “linked scores for the twenty large organizations that voluntarily completed the American Heart Association’s newly launched Worksite Health Achievement Index (WHAI) for 2015 to individual-level MarketScan® data for 373,478 of their workers with employer benefits that year. Higher aggregate WHAI scores were associated with lower values for four of seven modifiable indicators of cardiovascular risk and a higher value for one.”
The study concludes: “Although also associated with lower prevalence of cardiovascular disease, higher aggregate scores were associated with higher spending on the condition. These and other findings provide useful benchmarks and norms for employer practices related to cardiovascular disease prevention.”
MedPage Today reports that Dean Baker, MD, MPH, of University of California, Irvine, “who was not involved in Goetzel’s study” commented: “The most effective policies and programs are those that integrate strategies to enhance health promotion in the workplace (such as those assessed in the WHAI) with strategies to modify work environment factors that can increase cardiovascular disease risk or more generally adverse health effects.”
Baker further emphasized that it matters for the wellness program to be focused and well-run. He said: “Do the employment engagement policies encourage not only employee participation in the health promotion programs but also employment empowerment to address issues and concerns related to the work environment and the way they do their work tasks? Do the organizational policies and environment address identified work organization and work-related psychosocial risk factors for cardiovascular disease?”
A MobiHealth News report sums up the study well: “Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and most people are already on their way towards that fate: 99 percent of the population has at least one of seven cardiovascular health risks. In addition to being incredibly common, it’s costly – racking up $207 billion per year in medical expenditures and lost productivity. But a new study suggests workplace programs that address heart disease risk factors in daily, working life could be effective in lowering the prevalence of the condition.”