Benefits, Well-Being

Four Healthy Habits with Big Payoffs for Health Care

November 14, 2016

Four Health Habits with Big Payoffs for Health Care

November is a common time for health insurance Open Enrollment, as many benefit plans renew on January 1. Chances are you recently completed enrollment for your 2017 benefits (which I hope wasn’t too painful!). Throughout the process, you may have found yourself weighing plan options. Whichever health plan you choose will likely be based on your health status, as well as your finances.

While no one has a crystal ball to predict what their health situation will look like in the next 12 months, we can all play a role in practicing healthy habits that may encourage cost savings – not just for 2017 but in years to come.

This article goes so far as to say that certain habits can not only save money on healthcare costs, but also position someone to be better off financially due to more productivity at work and more years spent working into older age. The advice shared in this blog is not meant to outline any direct ROI, but rather get you thinking of ways that, over time, repeated healthy habits can save an undefinable amount of money on health care, both on the employee and employer level.

Healthy Habit #1: Handwashing

Practicing good hygiene, including handwashing, helps lower the chance of catching the flu and other airborne illnesses. This is a good habit to promote in the workplace during winter months when flu season is in full force. Place posters in restrooms and common areas to remind employees of the importance of handwashing, as outlined here by the CDC.

Healthy Habit #2: Routine dental exams

Keeping up with the recommended two preventive dental exams per year can help you save significantly by warding off cavities and gum disease that are more likely to occur without routine exams. According to Mayo Clinic, poor oral health can be linked to conditions elsewhere in the body, including cardiovascular disease and premature or low-birth weight babies. Encourage employees to visit their dentist by providing education around their dental plan if your company offers one. Also, try allowing time off work for doctor’s appointments, and potentially incentivizing routine dental exams, such as through employer HSA contributions.

Healthy Habit #3: Physical activity

This is probably the no-brainer on the list. Maintaining a routine of regular exercise, in whatever mode you’re most likely to stick with, is a key preventive measure against obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions that arise out of a sedentary lifestyle. A recent article suggests that cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, costs the United States $110 billion annually. The American Heart Association exercise recommendations stand at 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity. Help your employees achieve this by offering a wellness reimbursement program, walking groups, and potentially on-site amenities.

Healthy Habit #4: Sleeping 7-9 hours each night

The National Sleep Foundation shows through a recent study how sleep-deprived individuals have slower reaction times. This can mean higher risk for accidents, whether it be while driving or operating heavy machinery at the worksite. Just like a lack of physical activity, chronic sleep deprivation is also linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Admittedly, sleep is a harder health habit to influence through wellness programs. Establishing policies and a culture that support work-life balance, for example not expecting email responses after 5:00 pm, can contribute to lower stress levels and feelings of being able to unplug, which support longer and better quality sleeping hours.

What other simple health habits are you promoting as part of your employee wellness efforts? Have you personally seen a benefit from a small habit that’s lasted over time?

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