Improved Health, Improved Productivity

This article accompanies Wrestling With Metrics

Thursday, February 7, 2013
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In 2010, management at Barrette Outdoor Living was aware of widespread health problems throughout the Middleburg Heights, Ohio-based manufacturer's workforce of 725 employees.

A significant symptom of these problems was unacceptable increases in medical insurance costs. In response to these rising expenses, the organization implemented a health-risk assessment in an effort to get to the root of the problem.

As outlined in Data Strategies for Managing Health and Productivity, a report co-authored by Riedel and Associates Consultants Inc. and the Integrated Benefits Institute, Barrette's data analysis found escalating trends in body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol among its employees, and pinpointed high rates of physical inactivity and tobacco use as common lifestyle risk factors. The company's healthcare costs associated with obesity -- absenteeism, reduced productivity, for example -- were estimated to be as high as $147,412 per year, according to the report.

An integrated metrics approach helped demonstrate these costs to senior management and ultimately set the company on the path to improving worker health and productivity, says John Riedel, president of Riedel and Associates.

"The creation of a companywide risk-reduction program was designed to drive down high medical costs," he says. "The [subsequent reduction in claims] has prompted a move toward understanding the additional impact of poor health and productivity."

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Indeed, that move is ongoing, as the company envisioned a three-year timeframe in which to start seeing positive results.

So far, so good. From the group of employees who completed the HRA, 531 were targeted for health-risk coaching, according to the report. Participants were stratified based on the number and severity of their biometric and lifestyle risk factors. The employee list was then evaluated to determine the final list of employees for outreach.

In its first year, the program saw just a 2.6 percent increase in employee participation. By the end of the program's seventh quarter, however, the health-risk coaching participation rate had grown to 27 percent. And, with 56 percent of participants reporting a favorable change in body-mass index, increased employee involvement in the coaching program has clearly had a positive impact on workers' health.

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