Stewart Levy is a 15-year veteran of the corporate wellness arena, so he has seen all the corporate programs. And he has seen how many fail.
“A health fair where you invite vendors in and you blow up balloons and make people feel good,” he said. “The data shows that doesn't work.”
So when he founded Health Promotion Solutions four years ago, he did it with one goal in mind: “To provide evidence-based tools that employers could use for better outcomes.”
Levy has found his biggest challenge is simply getting the chance — and the time — to implement programs that do work.
“We still have this debate and frustration because employers are not sure if their investment in wellness and prevention is paying off,” he said. “The evidence exists that wellness needs to be done strategically, it needs to be long term, and it needs to be done with a major investment.”
Levy said it can take three to five years before the impact of company wellness programs shows up in the medical claims data. So Princeton-based HPS helps employers implement wellness tools that don't rely on medical claims.
“We can actually show behavior changes, changes in eating patterns, changes in chronic disease risk,” he said. HPS helps employers implement “validated tools” developed by government and academic experts. And he said most corporations are not aware that these tools exist.
HPS has partnered with other wellness providers.
There's Princeton-based Viocare, a company funded by the National Institutes of Health, which has created an assessment tool that can gather 90 days of data on an individual's eating patterns in just 30 minutes. And then there's BioSignia, which has created a predictive health screening tool.
Levy said biometric screenings typically give a snapshot of the employee's current health status: blood pressure, cholesterol, height, weight, pulse and waist circumference. BioSignia, he said, takes it a step further.
“It takes that data and shows a five-year projection for health risk,” he said. That's something both the employer and employee benefit from.
The individual employees get a report that calculates their five-year risk of developing chronic ailments such as diabetes and heart disease. And the employer gets an aggregate estimate of what their increased cost — the financial burden of illness — will be over the next five years.
“So for an employer with 1,000 employees, there may be $5 million in additional health care costs they could face in the next five years, unless they do something about it,” Levy said. The tools will also show that the majority of that risk “is preventable if they put wellness programs in place.”
Levy said wellness works when “there is investment from the employer from a cultural standpoint, with senior management buy-in.”
Wellness efforts that have an impact, he said, include giving employees incentives to engage in fitness challenges and team competitions; providing health coaching, either in-person or via email; putting healthy food in the cafeteria, and offering on-site fitness centers, clinics and disease-management programs.
Levy said the data shows Fortune 500 companies that have invested in robust wellness programs are achieving a reduction of between $3 and $5 in medical claims for every dollar they spend on wellness.
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