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Tools to assess costs of high-risk health factors

The Obesity Cost Calculator,
developed by RTI International, is a tool which accurately estimates the obesity-related costs of an organization based on national health and medical expenditure survey data.

Physical Inactivity Calculator
developed by East Carolina University to provide an estimate of the cost of physically inactive people.

Diabetes cost calculator for employers
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has created an evidence-based tool that employers can use to estimate how much diabetes costs them and the potential savings that would result from better management of diabetes.

Tobacco to estimate the return on investment to coverage, promotion, and encouragement of smoking cessation.

Alcohol abuse online tool that can help you estimate the prevalence and associated costs of alcohol problems in your population and the savings associated with intervention.

Depression calculator can help estimate the cost of depression to your company, and can also project the benefits when depressed employees receive treatment.

Targeting the predominant health risks in your workforce saves money

Employers can reduce their medical costs and improve productivity by targeting specific health risks among workers, according to a new study published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine.

Researchers looked at the top modifiable health risks among employees at a large corporation to determine their health-and productivity-related expenditures. They also predicted potential cost savings from reducing risk prevalence among the employees.

Based on previous studies showing much of the overall health care costs are attributable to certain factors, the researchers examined the following health risks among the employees:

  1. Overweight/obesity.
  2. High blood pressure.
  3. High blood glucose.
  4. High cholesterol.
  5. Inadequate exercise.
  6. Poor nutrition.
  7. Poor emotional health.
  8. High triglycerides.
  9. Poor safety practices.
  10. Tobacco use.
  11. High alcohol consumption.

The research found that obesity, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, high triglycerides, and inadequate exercise had the greatest impact on total medical care costs. With average obesity exceeding 30% of the male and female population, according to the CDC, and medical costs associated with obesity rising 60% since 1991, it is a growing problem for many employers.

The study also looked at productivity costs, including absenteeism and presenteeism, noting that research has estimated annual costs due to lost productive time at $1,392 to $2,592 per employee at risk. In this case, depression or poor emotional health was a significant predictor of higher medical costs, as well as absenteeism and presenteeism. In fact, the study concluded that the “strongest potential for presenteeism savings lies in reducing emotional health risks" for the unidentified large Midwestern employer.

While risk factors will vary by industry, location, health and wellness programs, etc., according to a SHRM Foundation report Promoting Employee Well-Being, research suggests that American workplaces will display patterns similar to those listed below:

Risk Factor/Health Condition Percentage of Workers Approx. Excess Annual Medical Costs For High Risk Adults
Low intake of fruit and vegetables 76.6% $656
Overweight/Obesity 63.1% $1,351
Physical Inactivity 49.0% $982
High stress 43.0% $764
High cholesterol 37.5% $892
High blood pressure 28.7% $447
Arthritis 26.0% $617
Cigarette smoking 20.6% $579
Asthma 8.8% $803
Diabetes mellitus 8.3% $1,176
Depression 6.4% $804
Migraine headaches 6.0% $723
Alcohol abuse 5.0% $386

Understanding the prevalence of these factors among your workforce, along with the costs, is an effective way to identify health challenges and set priorities.