The Well-Being Journal

Brazil's Opportunity for Action

Jennifer Rudloff

A couple of weeks ago I jumped on a plane and woke up in a different hemisphere – to be more precise, Sao Paulo, Brazil. This was my second visit, and I’m already looking forward to returning again in October. I love the people, the culture, the sense of purpose, and the food (it’s ohh so delicious).

While in Brazil, I made my rounds to several companies including a client, and a government supported organization. My week culminated with a speaking engagement at Congresso Abramge, the Brazilian equivalent of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). While touring and talking with people I began to draw comparisons between Brazil and the US. When comparing the well-being needs of Brazilian people, businesses, and private health plans the one thing that really stood out to me was that their well-being needs are very similar to ours in the US.

Given that the health/wellness status of the Brazilian population is not yet as dire as ours in the U.S., Brazil is behind us in creating solutions. It is often difficult to recognize a need in its early stages. But Brazilian leaders are showing signs that they recognize the need and are searching for the same proof of concept for well-being solutions that we were in the U.S. a few years back. And they’re just in time. While Brazil trails the U.S. in obesity and other lifestyle risks, obesity is on the rise and lifestyle behaviors are getting worse. As a result of this, healthcare costs are rising (regardless of who the payer is). But we know that healthcare isn’t the only area where costs will rise. Research shows that poor health and well-being costs companies more than just healthcare spend; it impacts presenteeism and productivity, and may be robbing Brazilian businesses of vital performance even now.

The Brazilians are smart, strategic, and business savvy people and I expect they’ll take aggressive action when the time comes. I would encourage them not to follow in the footsteps of the U.S. and wait until they have one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel before acting.

So if there is a key takeaway from my trip it’s that Brazil has the opportunity to do what the U.S. failed to do 25 years ago, that is, act before the problem becomes so large it is hard to tackle. As I made my rounds to various organizations in Brazil, I repeatedly heard the sentiment that they were ready for the challenge, but it will take will, fortitude, and resolve. Fortunately, they don’t have to find their path blindly. Since the U.S. has gone before Brazil, we can offer encouragement, insights and wisdom.

In October, I am going back to Brazil to speak at the Encontros en Suade Corporativa, a series of conferences that address various areas of well-being. The significant number of conferences in Brazil indicate a hunger for learning more about well-being, applying it in business settings, and reaping the benefits of healthier people, lower costs, and better business performance. This gives me hope that Brazilian companies will come in ahead of the curve and might get a handle on this much earlier in the game than we did in the U.S.

I wish the Brazilians much success, and hope to be part of their mission and achievement. I think their opportunity is there for the taking.

Topics: Well-Being John Harris Workplace Well-Being Health Prevention Wellness Brazil Healthways

Are You Seeing the Big Picture?

Jennifer Rudloff

It’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of your organization to stay in tune with employee needs and challenges, and engagement levels. You can’t move what you can’t measure. This need to measure has led to a seemingly endless stream of surveys. There are health risk assessments, engagement surveys, presenteeism surveys, and the list goes on…Like many other people in the market, we recognized that there had to be a better way.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to look far for the answer. Realizing the power behind our work with Gallup on the Well-Being Index (WBI) Healthways quickly asked how we could apply the science and research behind the WBI to individual employers or health plans. As a result, Healthways went to work building a tool that combined elements of the WBI with those of other common surveys, creating a comprehensive tool to measure the health and well-being of an employer population. This resulted in the birth of the Healthways Well-Being Assessment™ (WBA).

This is not your typical survey. It goes far beyond the standard HRA question set and shifts focus to include the entire individual - and for good reason. Research increasingly reveals vital linkages between healthcare costs, productivity, physical health, emotional health, health behavior, work environment, social support, and basic access to necessary resources. Shifting away from purely physical health, the WBA leverages WBI questions for a baseline comparison against the nation, with an emphasis on employee health, productivity, and the work environment. With an understanding of employee engagement, health, and well-being, organizations can better determine where to focus efforts to influence the greatest performance opportunities, both financial and personal, within their populations. Makes sense, right? Individual and population-level reports generated from the WBA provide an intimate, holistic view of the workplace and actionable information that can help guide decisions on health benefits, work environment, corporate culture and overall business performance.

In more detail the WBA allows organizations to:

  • Gain a comprehensive view of employees’ social, emotional, physical and financial well-being to understand how to target investments that best support those needs.
  • Assess the real quality of the work environment, including its stressors, culture, leadership, wellness and prevention programs, and recruitment and retention strategies to determine exactly where improvements are needed for a more engaged workforce.
  • Benchmark your organization or institution nationally, regionally and locally; or by job, business unit or location. (Who else can provide a real-time benchmark against the nation.)
  • Create customized solutions for your unique workforce to provide a more supportive work environment and earn recognition as an employer of choice.
  • Understand the health conditions the workforce is experiencing and how you can support them for optimal productivity and minimal absenteeism.
  • Learn what the significant contributors are to direct medical costs – whether they are systemic or exist in unique locations within the organization – and apply the findings to design and target ways to better address health cost drivers and reduce healthcare costs.
  • Use the results as a market differentiator to retain and attract customers. (for health plans)
  • Make specific comparisons among subsets of their populations and conduct year-to-year comparisons to gauge progress over time.

Human performance drives business performance in every organization. While many organizations use HRAs to understand and improve workforce health and guide programs to reduce healthcare costs, they’re missing the big picture. There are many factors that influence our well-being and impact performance. The Healthways WBA offers organization-specific insight on these factors. Results magnify opportunities to maximize the outcomes of health and performance program investments, and to measure their impact and effectiveness over time.

Do you believe this broader approach to assessing the well-being of your workforce seems like the right idea? Is learning more about emotional, social, work culture, and the access variables of your organization important to you? Is it time the standard HRA evolves into more? We’d love to get your thoughts.

Topics: Well-Being Benchmark Workplace Well-Being Healthcare Business Performance Innovations in Healthcare Health Well-Being Index Competitive Advantage Prevention HRA How to Improve Employee Performance Health in the Workplace Wellness Healthways Employee Performance Improvement WBA WBI Well-being Assessment

When it Comes to Our Nation's Budget Crisis, Medicare is Not the Problem

Jennifer Rudloff

Road Sign: ChangesYou would have to be living on a deserted island to not know that the Congress — specifically the House — and the Administration are playing chicken in the ongoing posturing over whether or not to increase the country’s debt ceiling. What makes this round of debate unique is for the first time in history, Congress has tied the debt ceiling topic to the budget process.

The positions of our elected representatives are unfailingly predictable. Republicans want to reduce taxes and spending, notably on entitlements; Democrats want to increase taxes and protect entitlement programs. In this debate, it is no surprise that Medicare [and Social Security] should be the center of the bullseye for each sides’ daily talking points. The rhetoric is hot on both sides. Unfortunately, with elections around the corner, officials are maintaining a focus on their campaigns. This can obscure facts and solutions and create barriers that keep officials from accomplishing what they were sent to DC to do. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that Medicare, per se, is not the problem. Yes it’s expensive and yes the aging of the Baby Boom Generation will add millions of new beneficiaries over the next 25 years. But the simple truth is that there IS a way to reduce Medicare cost by more than a Trillion dollars over the next decade, without reducing benefits or capping provider pay. The approach derives from this universal truth: Healthier People Cost Less. And they don’t have to be a lot healthier to save a lot of cost.

In a paper published in Population Health Management this past February, the authors demonstrate the significant dollar impact of relatively modest improvements in modifiable health risks. The Trillion dollar savings is fully 25% of the package both sides say they want to reach. Why, one must wonder, is there little or no energy in that direction?

The well-being of our country is at stake. It's time that we see less brinkmanship and more leadership in DC.

Topics: In the News Healthcare Prevention Budget Crisis Medicare Advantage Government

Lincoln Industries: A Case for Well-Being

Jennifer Rudloff

Recently, CFO magazine published a story on Lincoln Industries inspired by the findings of a new study done by Lincoln Industries in conjunction with Healthways and the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO). This study, featured in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, is among the first peer- reviewed research evaluating the effectiveness of worksite health and wellness programs offered by a small employer. Findings support the premise that high-quality employee wellness programs in small businesses improve employee health and well-being, which drives organizational outcomes such as absenteeism, healthcare costs and disability claims.

The study shows a phenomenal corporate culture of health at Lincoln Industries, adopted by the company years ago. Lincoln adopted a culture of health years ago. Its leadership realized that to take its wellness program to the next level, there needed to be a stronger emphasis on well-being, focusing on the whole person, not just physical health. To gain a better understanding of the needs of their population and identify areas of opportunity, they began using the Healthways Well-Being Assessment™ (WBA). The WBA assesses physical health, emotional health, healthy behavior, work environment, life evaluation, and basic access to food, shelter, healthcare and other necessities, and provides management with a comprehensive, holistic view of the health and well-being of their employees.

The study marks an important step toward broadening the workplace well-being impact beyond just large businesses. Small businesses, which stand to benefit from financial incentives provided by healthcare reform legislation, are in need of guidance regarding their investment in programs that deliver results.

Lincoln is a great example of how to do it right. They make well-being a part of individual objectives, and as a the result, they’ve seen a 5 to 1 ROI in wellness programs. They achieved an 87 percent response rate on the Well-Being Assessment (without incentives). Additionally, approximately 99 percent of employees complete regular health screenings with the majority of the workforce participating in wellness programs throughout the year. They’ve successfully reduced tobacco use, significantly reduced workers compensation costs, and have consistently managed to beat the national average on health insurance rates by $3000 per employee.

So how do they do it? Watch the interviews below where their Director of Wellness, Safety and Life Enhancement, Tonya Vyhildal talks with us in about the well-being improvement programs at Lincoln Industries. For a more detailed dive into their successes, watch her complete presentation from the Healthways Well-Being Summit here.

As a leader in well-being, how do you promote well-being internally?

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How do you tie well-being into individual objectives?

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What impact have well-being programs had on your organization?

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Why do you include well-being as a performance measure?

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Talk about the HERO paper published in the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine,

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What's the one thing you'd tell an employer looking to move to well-being?

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Topics: Return on Investment Well-Being HERO Tonya Vyhildal Nebraska Workplace Well-Being Business Performance Competitive Advantage Prevention wellbeing and health Wellness Lincoln Industries Healthways Wellness Program Well-being Assessment