Reframing our Wellness Conversation
Health in America is an issue we can no longer ignore or defer. And it’s an issue we all have a very large stake in. Our health care system is now so expensive that it has become the primary driver of our nation’s debt. A recent report by the Bipartisan Policy Center includes this stark assessment: “The current level of health care spending will bankrupt our country.”
It’s estimated that almost 90 percent of all full-time employees are now either overweight or have at least one chronic illness. As the health status of our workforce declines, the burden on both employers and employees and their families increases.
Obesity alone now costs employers $2 per employee per day. With 100 employees, that’s about $73,000 a year that isn’t available for new hires, business expansion or benefits for existing employees. Health insurance premiums can now consume as much as one-fourth of median family income—and they’re buying less and less coverage. In 2005, the average premium for a family plan was just under $11,000. That jumped to just over $15,000 in 2011, and by 2021 estimates place it near $30,000.
The way to begin to bend the health care cost curve lower is to engage individuals and organizations in a new, honest and empowering dialogue about their health and well-being.
This isn’t just theory. For the past seven years, the Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals has partnered with LoneStart Wellness to promote this conversation in rural communities across Texas. Like all employers, hospitals need to contain costs, boost productivity and improve overall efficiency. Protecting the health and well-being of their most important resource, their human capital is the best strategy to achieve these outcomes.
How does a simple conversation accomplish this? People are increasingly aware of the personal and financial impact the health care cost crisis is having on their lives. We’ve shown that most people will join a voluntary movement to improve their health and that of their families so long as they believe they are receiving valid information, can have the realistic expectation of success and will have genuine organizational support.
When an individual has even the smallest success and it is shared with family, friends and co-workers, it creates the opportunity for a new, affirming conversation to take place. By keeping this conversation renewed and relevant, we foster an environment where healthier behaviors are learned, adopted, shared and sustained.
We’re building on the success of this strategy with a new initiative called All In . . . We Win! It’s a startlingly simple concept. It’s designed to overcome the three perceptual barriers to implementing a wellness initiative: cost, complexity and effectiveness. By offering a proven, easy-to-administer behavioral strategy at a dramatically reduced fee, we’re able to attract wider participation. The more organizations that participate the lower the cost per participant and the greater the impact of the initiative. It’s a true Win-Win-Win proposition.
We’re extending an invitation to business leaders, managers of city and county government, school administrators, churches and civic organizations to join us in this new conversation. It’s not only the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.
David Pearson, firstname.lastname@example.org, is President/CEO of Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals.
Jay Seifert, email@example.com, is co-founder of LoneStart Wellness.
Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals (TORCH) is the voice and principal advocate for rural and community hospitals in Texas. We provide leadership in addressing the special needs and issues of these hospitals. For more information, call 512.873.0045 or visit the web site at www.torchnet.org.