The Well-Being Journal

New Study Shows Positive Impact of Australia’s Largest Health Management Program

Sophie Leveque

The impact of chronic disease on the U.S. healthcare system is staggering – 86 percent of all healthcare spending is for individuals with a least one chronic condition. But unfortunately chronic disease is not an issue unique to the United States. Chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease are also highly prevalent in other parts of the world.

In Australia, approximately one million people are living with diabetes. What’s more, 100,000 new cases are diagnosed annually – making it the fastest growing chronic illness in the country. Cardiovascular disease is also a serious health issue in Australia, as it’s the leading cause of death, accounting for 30 percent of all deaths. In terms of financial impact, diabetes and cardiovascular disease combined are expected to cost Australians $31.2 billion in annual healthcare expenditures by 2033 – representing nearly 12.7 percent of all healthcare spending.

In 2009, Australia’s largest not-for-profit private health insurer, The Hospitals Contributions Fund of Australia (HCF), decided to meet this critical issue of chronic disease head-on by partnering with Healthways to provide comprehensive well-being improvement solutions through a program called My Health Guardian (MHG). The largest program of its kind in Australia, MHG works to actively manage and improve the health and well-being of HCF members by offering them an extensive suite of resources. Members with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are eligible for telephonic support from registered nurses, helping to drive adherence to proven standards of care, medications and physician care plans.

A four-year study of the MHG program was recently published in BMC Health Services Research. “Long-term Impact of a Chronic Disease Management Program on Hospital Utilization and Cost in an Australian Population with Heart Disease or Diabetes” definitively illustrates the positive impact MHG has had on reducing costs and hospital utilization for insured HCF members with heart disease or diabetes. Overall, participants were 27 percent and 45 percent less likely to have any admission or readmission, respectively, over the four year study period than matched non-participants. The study also found that average per-member savings across the four-year period totaled $3,549.

These results build on earlier published research that looked at the outcomes from the first 18 months following the implementation of the MHG program. This 2012 peer-reviewed study showed that MHG significantly reduced the rate of hospital admissions for participants with heart disease and diabetes. Both the 2012 and 2015 studies found the magnitude of program effect increased over time, demonstrating the importance of sustained participation in the program.

Managing chronic conditions is a global issue and the MHG study demonstrates that there are viable solutions to help address it that can be successful in countries outside the United States. You can read the complete study here.
Topics: Chronic Disease Science and Research Cardiac Disease International Diabetes

Can Leaders Make or Break Well-Being Improvement Programs?

Sophie Leveque

Over the last several years, Healthways leaders have exhibited a high level of visible support for and engagement in our well-being improvement efforts. This high level of support from the top has helped us maximize program outcomes. Specifically, Healthways saw a 20 percent decrease, per member per month, in benefits spending during a five-year period.

In an earlier article, we explored this important role that leadership plays in sustaining a well-being culture and helping organizations see improved outcomes from their well-being improvement and wellness programs. Recently, Human Resource Executive (HRE) published an article that addresses this same issue, suggesting that the success of such programs is often strongly connected to how noticeably engaged organizational leaders are with them.

Featured in the article is Ross Scott, Healthways’ chief human resources officer, who discusses his views on the critical relationship between leadership and program effectiveness. Scott addresses a number of actions that leaders at Healthways have done to more visibly engage in the company’s well-being improvement effort, including wearing fitness attire, holding walking meetings, and taking the time to introduce colleagues who may not already know each other.

The HRE article also highlights two pieces of Healthways research that demonstrate the link between well-being and worker productivity: a study entitled "Comparing the Contributions of Well-Being and Disease Status to Employee Productivity" published last year in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®.

To learn more about the important role that executives play in leading well-being, read the full article here.

Topics: Well-Being In the News Workplace Well-Being Health in the Workplace Wellness Leadership

Inaugural Older Americans Report Looks at Well-Being Among Those Over the Age of 55

Madison Agee

The growing percentage of the American population oolder-americans-cover-thumbver the age of 55 — a trend largely driven by the Baby Boomers entering later life — has important implications for a variety of stakeholders, including families, employers, healthcare providers and policymakers. Greater insight into the well-being of these older Americans is now available with the release of an inaugural report based on data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®.

The report, “State of American Well-Being: State Well-Being Rankings for Older Americans”, examines the comparative well-being of Americans age 55 and older, and reveals that, nationally, adults 55 and older have higher well-being than the rest of the population. The report also ranks the well-being of these older adults in all 50 states.

Older Americans have the highest well-being in the state of Hawaii, followed by Montana, South Dakota, Alaska and Iowa. Well-being for adults age 55 and older is lowest in West Virginia. The other states with low well-being for older adults are Kentucky, Oklahoma, Ohio and Indiana. You can read more about the rankings here and download a copy of the report here

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals across the globe to create a unique view of societies’ progress on the elements that matter most to well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. It is the most proven, mature and comprehensive measure of well-being in populations. Previous Gallup and Healthways research shows that high well-being closely relates to key health outcomes such as lower rates of healthcare utilization, lower workplace absenteeism and better workplace performance, change in obesity status and new onset disease burden.

To discover where other states — including yours — fall within the rankings, download a copy of the report today. You can also subscribe to content from the Well-Being Index; by subscribing, we’ll let you know when we release new reports and insights from the Well-Being Index.
Topics: Aging Seniors Well-Being Index

The Changing Face of the Caregiver

Sophie Leveque

Historically, when older loved ones were in need of caregiving, they didn’t have to look very far. There was usually a close family member who could easily step into the role. But, over the last several decades, much has changed when it comes to who fulfills the role of caregiver. It’s no longer a given that a dutiful daughter will take on caregiving responsibilities for an aging parent, a shifting tide that can be attributed to a combination of demographic and cultural changes. These changes are also having a profound impact on the caregiver experience.

Some of these shifts include:

  • Shrinking average family size. Fewer children means a smaller pool of caregivers from which to draw. From the caregiver perspective, there are fewer relatives with whom to share responsibilities or turn to when more intervention is needed.

  • Geographic distance. Nowadays, people are more open to moving away from their hometowns for educational, career and personal reasons, often leaving behind their parents and loved ones. This means that older adults don’t have immediate, local assistance, and that their children or younger relatives may often be providing care remotely.
  • Evolving cultural attitudes. Traditional expectations around the duty of younger generations for caring for their older relatives are changing. For example, some cultural traditions dictated that older parents move in with their adult-aged children, but shifting norms may have mitigated some of these cultural pressures. 

  • Employment trends. Historically, daughters whose own children were grown may have assumed the caregiving mantle, but as more women have joined the formal workforce, it has become more difficult for them to take on caregiving responsibilities.

  • More single-person households. If an adult child or loved one becomes a caregiver, there is not always someone within their own household who can “pick up the slack” and tend to normal family and household management.

  • Parents having children later in life. With the age gap widening between generations, modern caregivers may have more non-caregiving responsibilities they have may have had historically. They may be in a stage where their careers need a great deal of attention, may have young children of their own, or may still be finishing school.

  • Longer life expectancies. With advancements in medicine, caregiving is no longer the temporary arrangement it may have once been. Older adults may require more care for longer periods of time.
In a recent Healthways webinar on the relationship between caregiving and well-being, Joe Coughlin of the MIT AgeLab discussed these changing demographic and cultural trends in detail. According to Coughlin, the data suggests that these shifts will only become more marked over time, which, in turn, will only make caregiving more complex.

Infographic provided by Respect a Caregiver's Time (REAct).

Coughlin discussed some fascinating insights into the changing face of the modern caregiver. As he noted, in this new age of caregiving, the caregiver can be anyone: sons, daughters, spouses, friends, or siblings. That said, studies have shown that the responsibility for giving care usually—as it has historically— falls to women. These women are typically the spouse or oldest daughter of the individual needing care and are between the ages of 47 and 57.

But unlike the stereotypical caregiver—who never participated in the formal economy or is retired—we also know that modern day caregivers are often employed. Data from the 2014 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® tells us that 13.4 percent of caregivers are full-time employees. And while traditionally caregivers have been middle-aged, Coughlin reports that today’s caregivers may be in a younger age category. As we discussed earlier, with caregivers skewing younger, they’re often working as well. In fact, the Well-Being Index tells us that nearly one in 10 full-time employees under the age of 45 is a caregiver.

As a result, today’s caregivers are often juggling the care of their aging loved ones, which for 25 percent of American families consumes more than 21 hours a week, with workplace responsibilities and their own families (see infographic). As Coughlin explored in our webinar, these multiple time and energy demands can have a dramatic effect on individual well-being, a topic we’re going to address in an upcoming article.

To learn more about shifting demographics around caregiving, as well as its link to well-being, please view our recent webinar, “The Costs of Caring: The Impact of Caregiving on your Population’s Well-Being". Our team of panelists also discussed several strategies for supporting caregivers in your organization.


Topics: Well-Being Aging Caregiving