Want to improve the health of your worksite? MSU Extension has the program for you!

Using science-based prevention and wellness strategies, MSU Extension offers a program designed to train employers on how to improve the health of their workers and their families.

Knowing how to start a worksite wellness program can be one of the biggest barriers for worksites. The first step includes getting management buy-in and informing leadership on the benefits of a worksite wellness program.

Where to start as an employer? Call Michigan State University Extension’s worksite wellness coordinator who can assist and walk your organization through the steps of creating a culture of health.

Receiving management buy-in may require you to prepare to make the business case on why worksite wellness is important and a good use time and resources. Worksite health programs have been shown to reduce injuries, disability, workers’ compensation and presenteeism; improve employee health and productivity; as well as be an effective tool in employee recruitment and retention strategies as part of the total employee compensation package. Presenteeism is defined as on-the-job work distraction due to a health-related problem. Each employer has its own unique culture and needs from a health management perspective. Making the business case for implementing a worksite health program is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

A key argument for a worksite health program is that worksite wellness programs help combat escalating healthcare costs. One major reason for the high cost of health care is chronic disease. Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Seventy-five percent of healthcare costs are related to chronic health conditions such as obesity, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, depression, hypertension and heart-related problems. Seven out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases. Heart disease, cancer and stroke account for more than 50 percent of all deaths each year. Obesity and Type 2 diabetes have become major cost drivers to employers, not only in direct medical costs, but in productivity-related costs. For example, according to the 2008 National Vital Statistics Reports from the CDC, diabetes accounts for 15 million work days absent, 120 million work days with reduced performance, and 107 million work days lost due to unemployment disability attributed to diabetes. People with diabetes have a health related absenteeism rate that is 0.8 percent higher than people without diabetes.

The adoption of positive health practices can also help prevent disease and provide additional benefits such as lower healthcare costs and lower absenteeism and disability. Employers can significantly influence the health of their employees by creating and sustaining a healthy work culture that provides a safe work environment, appropriate policies, benefits, environmental supports, comprehensive programming and strong leadership. Return on Invest calculators also helps project the impact of evidence-based programs on health care costs, productivity and absenteeism. Employers can compare these projections with the cost of doing nothing.

According to Dee Edington, a key health cost management strategy among successful employers is the ability to keep their existing healthy population healthy and still support medium- to high-risk individuals as they move to a lower risk status. It is important to try and provide support to the entire employee population.

Many successful employers view their worksite health programs as part of their total human resource retention strategy. An effective strategy protects, supports and empowers employers’ number one asset—their employees. Successful employers believe creating a supportive environment brings the best out of people, and, in turn, attracts the best talent.

As an employer or an employee, your worksite can take advantage of changing the culture of health at your worksite with the assistance of MSU Extension.

More information please contact the worksite wellness coordinator, Dawn Earnesty at wilcoxd4@msu.edu or visit http://msue.anr.msu.edu/program/info/worksite_wellness and http://mihealthmatters.msu.edu/ for programs and educational opportunities.

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