|Continued… An example of a common disease is heartburn or gastro-esophageal reflux disorder (GERD). Thousands upon thousands of people suffer from this affliction. Very strong and effective medications are available to treat its symptoms, both over the counter and by prescription. It is such a frequent affliction that people don't take it very seriously.
However, notwithstanding the potentially catastrophic medical results of chronic GERD (esophageal lesions or cancer, for example), people with GERD are found to suffer decreased productivity so severely that a recent study by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders has calculated that over $2 billion is lost in productivity each week due to the disease. That's right - Each Week! What does this have to do with wellness, you might ask? Very conveniently, two common ways to reduce or eliminate GERD are weight loss and stress reduction. Both can easily be accomplished through a good exercise regimen. A wellness program can efficiently and effectively reduce the incidence of GERD for individuals and for entire workforces. An estimated five to seven percent of people are chronic GERD sufferers. Can you see the benefit of a bit of wellness-oriented intervention?
|You may think that other illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and stroke are just bad luck, and it's a shame when they happen to someone, but they cannot be prevented.
Fortunately, for those who wish to take the steps, the incidence of such diseases can be radically minimized by living a fit and healthy life. Of the top 7 causes of death, 6 are what we call "lifestyle diseases". This means that they are caused by a person's lifestyle choices, at least in part, if not in whole.
These diseases are as follows:
||Percentage of Deaths
|Flu and Pneumonia
And even though we say that "accidents" are the exception to the lifestyle disease mortality percentages, even some of those deaths could be prevented by such activities as wearing seat belts, not driving while impaired, or taking other precautions.
What if you were a business owner? If you look at the above table and sort through your work force, you would no doubt find a good handful of employees that either suffer from or are at risk for one or more of these diseases. And while the disease may not kill them while they are your employee, the chances are that their work for you will be negatively impacted by their struggle with the disease.
From a humanitarian viewpoint, of course you would want the best for your employees, and you would want to see them free of these dreaded diseases. However, there is also the very practical matter of your business's bottom line that gives you a vital interest in your employees being free of disease.
Between the times employees spend at the doctor's office, the time they spend out sick, and the time they are working at less than full speed, employers are losing an average of $2,000 to $2,800 per employee per year due to illnesses. These numbers do not include the healthcare costs or workers compensation costs incurred due to illness.
Review the above table carefully, and you will also note that many of these illnesses can be mitigated or prevented entirely by a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle can be roughly defined as maintaining an optimal weight, eating right, not smoking, engaging in (at least) moderate exercise, and managing stress.
Even when it comes to such illnesses as the flu, a person's immune system plays a tremendous part in whether or not an illness will take hold. A healthy immune system can be developed and maintained by living a healthy lifestyle.
The relationship between a healthy diet and cardiovascular health and diabetes is even clearer, subject to the rare exceptions when a person is afflicted with a genetic or structural flaw in their system. Even then, taking measures to live a healthy lifestyle may prolong life and vitality.
In the next article of this series, I'll cover some of the developing trends in the world of corporate wellness.
About Greg Justice
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