Health behavior programs should be a key component of employee benefits packages, but leaders need to do more to make it happen.
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Stanford researcher and author Jeffrey Pfeffer explains why employers must take greater responsibility for preventing chronic conditions and why that requires dramatic change.
Researchers have known for years that behavior change is one of the most effective ways to improve outcomes for people with chronic health conditions. They’re also aware of the grim economics of doing nothing: An estimated 90% of total healthcare costs in the United States are incurred by people with chronic physical and mental health conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Reducing chronic disease requires dramatic changes, says Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and a longtime workplace health researcher and author. Pfeffer’s most recent book, “Dying for a Paycheck,” reported on the bleak historical track record of U.S. companies in supporting workers’ health.
First, Pfeffer says, employers must take greater responsibility for preventing chronic conditions by creating healthier, less stressful work environments, since stress has direct effects on ill health and also induces unhealthy behaviors. Second, when employee benefits leaders consider the content and administration of employee health plans, they need to devote more resources and attention to interventions that reduce the burdens of chronic conditions—such as those for diabetes, chronic pain, depression and anxiety—and not just treat the symptoms.
What are the biggest roadblocks to change, and how can CEOs and benefits leaders do a better job of reducing the costs and productivity burdens of illness? Pfeffer shared some of his insights in a recent interview.
- Chronic conditions of physical and mental health account for 90% of U.S. healthcare costs
- Benefits leaders must make health behavior a higher priority of employee health plans
- Healthier work environments can also help prevent the onset of many chronic conditions
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