HEALTH

Wellness works: More than half of employers include wellness program in health package

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — More employers continue to start wellness programs, and the majority of organizations with programs currently in place are looking to invest and expand, according to the "2011 Willis Health and Productivity Survey" by Willis North America’s Human Capital Practice released Tuesday.

According to the survey, 60% of respondents indicated they have some type of wellness program, an increase of 13% from 2010. Additionally, employers are not scaling back — 58% indicated they plan to expand their wellness initiatives with added programs or resources. “Wellness programs continue to evolve, and it is encouraging to see more organizations initiate programs despite economic pressures and continuing challenges in accurately measuring outcomes and results,” stated Jennifer Price, senior health outcomes consultant at Willis Human Capital Practice.

Additional key findings from the survey include:

  • 60% of employers indicated they had some type of wellness program. Of those with a wellness program, 40% reported they have an “intermediate” program in place;

  • The most common types of wellness programs being offered by respondents included physical activity programs (53%), tobacco cessation programs (49%) and weight management programs (45%); and

  • 43% of employers said the leading barrier to measuring success was difficulty in determining the influence of wellness compared with other factors impacting healthcare costs. Insufficient data and not enough staffing/time remain common barriers to measuring success.

The survey represents the findings received from 1,598 employers representing a cross-section of industries, locations and organizational sizes. Forty-four percent of respondents had 1,000 or more employees.

To download the survey click here.


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Study: Obesity trumps smoking when it comes to impact on long-term healthcare costs

BY Michael Johnsen

PHILADELPHIA — Obesity adds more to healthcare costs than smoking does, according to a study published in the March Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Both obesity and smoking were associated with excess costs for health care. Compared with nonsmokers, average health costs were $1,275 higher for smokers. But the incremental costs associated with obesity were even higher: $1,850 more than for normal-weight individuals. For those with morbid obesity, the excess costs were up to $5,500 per year.

The additional costs associated with obesity appeared lower after adjustment for other accompanying health problems. "This may lead to underestimation of the true incremental costs, since obesity is a risk factor for developing chronic conditions," lead author James Moriarty said. "Simultaneous estimates of incremental costs of smoking and obesity show that these factors appear to act as independent multiplicative factors." The study provides new insights into the long-term costs of obesity and smoking, showing that both risk factors lead to persistently higher health costs throughout a 7-year follow-up period.

Moriarty and colleagues of the Mayo Clinic analyzed the incremental costs of smoking and obesity among more than 30,000 Mayo Clinic employees and retirees. All had continuous health insurance coverage between 2001 and 2007.


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Nutramax celebrates 20 years

BY Michael Johnsen

EDGEWOOD, Md. — Nutramax Labs, known for its glucosamine and chondroitin products, on Tuesday celebrated its 20th anniversary, the company announced.

Nutramax helped research, manufacture and market joint health supplement CosaminDS. The chondroitin sulfate found in CosaminDS was chosen by the National Institutes of Health for the Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial. GAIT found that for a subset of participants with moderate to severe pain, glucosamine combined with chondroitin sulfate provided statistically significant pain relief compared with placebo — about 79% had a 20% or greater reduction in pain versus about 54% for placebo, according to the NIH.

Building upon the success of Cosamin, Nutramax then developed Cosequin joint health supplements for dogs, cats and horses, the company said. More than 60 products for people and animals followed in the next 20 years.

“Quality is our way of life at Nutramax Labs,” stated Robert Henderson, chairman of Nutramax. “We carefully research and develop products that are safe and effective,” he said. “We are looking forward to many more years of growth and service to our customers and our community."


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