Helping your clients tackle chronic disease

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The connection between physical health and mental health is impossible to ignore– especially when it comes to chronic disease. People who report symptoms of depression also report experiencing three times as many chronic physical conditions as the general population. At the same time, people with chronic physical conditions are twice as likely to experience a mood or anxiety disorder.

While employers are making resources available, such as EAPs and wellness programs, there’s still more work that needs to be done to connect and align programs to support all aspects of health, including employees living with chronic conditions.

The 2017 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey indicates that 57% of people with a health benefits plan are living with at least one chronic condition, like heart disease, diabetes or depression. These conditions can have serious consequences for employee health and pronounced impacts on workplace productivity and benefit plan costs. Yet according to a Sun Life Financial 2017 Bright Paper, “Chronic Disease in the Workplace: Focus on Prevention and Support,” employers believe that just 32% of employees are affected with a chronic condition.

This gap in awareness means that many employers are greatly underestimating the impact of chronic disease in their workplaces. But there’s good news—chronic health conditions are more preventable and manageable than ever. By cultivating a strong organizational culture of health, identifying key health challenges and taking targeted actions to address them, employers can help secure a healthier future for their employees, increase productivity and help manage benefit costs. And as their advisor you can help them get there.

A strategic roadmap

The great news is it doesn’t have to be complicated. Organizations can begin with evaluating organizational health needs and opportunities, based on both employer and employee level data streams. Armed with those insights, it becomes easier to develop a clear vision, measurable goals, and the roadmap to meet those objectives. Finally, with a plan in place, you can help them draft an action plan that may include a cultural shift, programs and tactics.

Perhaps the most critical element of any organizational health strategy is to determine how well your clients will determine their success. What’s most important to them? It’s clear that preventing the onset of chronic disease, preventing an LTD claim, or increasing productivity are all important returns on their investment in wellness. They need to understand the value when an employee feels their workplace wellness program helped them live a healthier life, or even saved their life.

If you’re helping implement a wellness strategy and program, you’ll want to review key strategic elements like your client’s leadership commitment, practices and policies, and employee communications. A proactive culture of health – one that reflects policies and practices that are aligned with health – is a essential to achieve those objectives. When employers get it right, the results are powerful and can lead to a reduction in the health risks that drive costs.

This content is brought to you by Sun Life Financial.

Transcontinental Media G.P.