Encourage Employees to Approach Health Care Choices as Consumers for Better Results

Nov. 11, 2011
A new study suggests that encouraging employees to approach their health care choices as consumers, when combined with traditional wellness initiatives, can bolster their diet, exercise and other wellness habits.

The study, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, indicates that the wellness programs that set out to teach employees how to be more discerning health care consumers often are effective at doing so.

During the study, 631 employees of two large, Midwestern companies randomly were assigned to two programs and a control group. A traditional health education intervention program promoted better nutrition, physical activity, injury prevention, smoking cessation and stress management, while an “activated consumer” program taught participants to evaluate sources of health information, choose a health benefits plan, use preventive services and take medications properly. The control group received no health education interventions.

High-risk employees in both intervention programs, which included those at risk for cardiovascular disease or premature death, were offered individualized coaching. Coaching for the “activated consumer” participants, however, was less intensive than the traditional model. This coaching contained roughly half as many sessions and was designed to focus on building skills with using health care resources.

Supplementing the Traditional Approach

Two years later, after a follow-up and screening period, both intervention groups saw improved self-reported health risk behaviors such as reducing dietary fat and increasing exercise. The overall effect, however, “favored the traditional approach,” said Paul Terry, Ph.D., first author of the paper, who was with the Park Nicollet Institute in Minneapolis at the time of the study and currently is CEO of StayWell Health Management.

While improvement in reducing risk-behaviors might have been expected in the traditional health education group, similar improvements within the group receiving consumer education suggest that “consumerism skills generalize into self-health management skills,” the study authors noted.

Although all three groups of participants registered improvements in measures of health consumer activation, such as the ability to recognize reliable health Web sites, only those in the activated consumer program did significantly better than control. Clinical health outcomes and productivity were not affected in the 2-year period following the survey.

“I think because activation results were positive, favorable and involved a lower overall investment, the lesson learned is not to give up on traditional approaches to health education but to layer in an emphasis on consumer skills, especially for clients who lack them and want to take advantage of new resources,” said Terry.

Health Behavior News Service is part of the Center for Advancing Health.

Sponsored Recommendations

Free Webinar: ISO 45001 – A Commitment to Occupational Health, Safety & Personal Wellness

May 30, 2024
Secure a safer and more productive workplace using proven Management Systems ISO 45001 and ISO 45003.

ISO 45003 – Psychological Health and Safety at Work

May 30, 2024
ISO 45003 offers a comprehensive framework to expand your existing occupational health and safety program, helping you mitigate psychosocial risks and promote overall employee...

DH Pace, national door and dock provider, reduces TRIR and claims with EHS solution

May 29, 2024
Find out how DH Pace moved from paper/email/excel to an EHS platform, changing their culture. They reduced TRIR from 4.8 to 1.46 and improved their ability to bid on and win contracts...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!