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Survey Workers Want Employer Help With Health Goals

Employees say they would like to improve their health status but need their employers to help them do it, a survey finds. However, the demands of work, personal life and overall stress levels are keeping them from pursuing their health improvement goals.

October 23, 2008
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Employees say they would like to improve their health status but need their employers to help them do it, a survey by the Washington-based National Business Group on Health has found.

However, the demands of work, personal life and overall stress levels are keeping them from pursuing their health improvement goals, said employees responding to the survey.

In its survey, the National Business Group on Health found that while 88 percent of employees have taken steps to improve their health within the past year or have been regularly doing so for more than a year, work demands are preventing 47 percent of them from leading a healthier life.

Employees also said they want health care communication targeted to their specific needs and interests, and to learn more about how to save money and get more value from their health plans, the survey found.

When asked to rank their preferred method of communication, 77 percent of employees said they read health-related e-mails; 65 percent indicated they like getting home mailings; and 55 percent said they use their employer’s Web site or intranet. While the vast majority said monthly or quarterly communication would be the preferred frequency for health-related communication, younger workers and men said they would like it even more often.

Employees are becoming more engaged in making active health care choices during annual enrollment, the survey found. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) said they reviewed their health plan options for their 2008 annual enrollment, and of those, 24 percent switched to a different plan. The tools employees found more helpful in making their decision were out-of-pocket-cost calculators, used by 63 percent; enrollment guides, used by 61 percent; and plan comparison tools, used by 60 percent.

More than half (54 percent) of employees said they would take advantage of health-related activities if offered by their employer as a way for them to improve their health, the survey found. Of that group, 59 percent said they would get on-site health screenings; 55 percent would use work-site fitness centers; 53 percent would enroll in a weight management program; 52 percent would participate in a Web-based wellness program; 52 percent would see a work-site health care provider; and 49 percent would work with a health coach.

Almost half (48 percent) of those surveyed said they completed an online health assessment to find out whether they had any health risks based on lifestyle or family history. Of those who completed an assessment, 19 percent said they did so because it was a requirement to enroll in employer-sponsored health care coverage, while 32 percent did so because their employer provided a financial incentive.

After completing an assessment, 51 percent of employees carefully reviewed the personal report they received, 35 percent made lifestyle adjustments to minimize the risks identified, and 22 percent shared the results with their doctor.

Of those who did not complete an assessment, 48 percent said it was not offered by their employer, and 34 percent said they were not aware that online health questionnaires were available to them.

The survey, which was conducted online July 10-21 by Fidelity Investments, included responses from 1,502 employees working full or part time at employers with 2,000 or more employees. The survey was funded by the National Business Group on Health for its members’ exclusive use.

Filed by Joanne Wojcik of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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