Earlier this month, we did end-of-year reviews with our client companies for 2019. One of the elements of the Pure Wellbeing wellness program is once-a-year screening for 12 common health risks. Ten of these are modifiable with lifestyle changes; including biometric risks such as high cholesterol or blood pressure; behavioural risks like smoking or physical inactivity; and perceptual risks, like poor general health or low levels of life satisfaction.
The idea of monitoring risks is to give participants a “wide-angle view” of how they are doing with regard to behaviours and clinical values that may affect their current health and risk of future illness. Along with the 12 risks, we monitor for Metabolic Syndrome (a big risk factor for diabetes and heart disease), as well as body composition, specifically looking at changes in body muscle, fat and water content.
Here are some of the results from our participants in 2019 (we have, of course, permission to share these!). The results are in aggregated form, so they reflect the average results among participants during this year:
- A 36% reduction in the number of health risks, based on the list of 12 outlined above;
- As well as a 41% reduction in Metabolic Syndrome prevalence;
- Numbers of participants meeting recommended levels of physical activity on a weekly basis almost trebled, from 33% to 88%;
- Program participation was approximately 90% for the year.
A very encouraging outcome was seeing a 36% reduction in the total number of health risks from the start of the year to the end. This indicates improvement across a wide range of measures of health, suggesting that people really did move towards better health over the year. This outcome may also have benefits for people’s work performance, in that heath risks are normally found to have a negative impact on work performance, to the extent of 2-3 percent performance decrease per risk. So eliminating risks has potential performance benefits. What the scale of the improvement might be, we don’t know; research hasn’t really answered that question. Of course there may also be no such performance improvement. It seems highly unlikely that risk reduction would cause a disimprovement however.
An important point to bear in mind is that people don’t tend to stand still over the course of a year. In reality, health risks tend to increase over time, as described by a process known as ‘natural flow’. So, although our results compare where people are at the end of the year with where they were at its beginning, where they would be had they not been taking part in a program is often somewhere else again.
Moving back a risk category
A 36% reduction in risks is generally enough to move someone out of the ‘High-risk’ category and into ‘Medium-risk’, or out of ‘Medium-risk’ and into ‘Low-risk’. Even if there is no related performance improvement, the sponsoring company still gets the benefit of its people being more active, with better back and muscular health, while also eating better, being likely to sleep better, in addition to being less stressed and less likely to leave on account of stress. There may still be significant value for the company in those outcomes, and the wellness program that delivers them acts as a perk which helps companies retain good people in the face of competition.
We are looking forward to seeing more improvements, and to reaching more participants with the risk-reduction program during 2020!