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Professionals

Studies Report Significant Impact of Health Promotion Programs
by Aleta Pippin

Research studies show that providing employees and other consumers of medical care with information and guidelines on how they can take better care of themselves can lower medical costs as much as 17 percent.

A series of special reports from Mayo Clinic says when employees and their families are given tools such as self-care information, newsletters, online services and telephone access to healthcare professionals, they are better able to make informed health management choices that result in significant cost savings.

As a result, the increased confidence in their ability to make healthcare decisions has enabled employees to reduce absenteeism, reduced the cost of visits to emergency rooms and doctors’ offices and lowered the cost of long-term care, even when chronic conditions figure into the equation, according to clinic reports.

Because corporate health promotion efforts emphasize the importance of giving employees informational tools and empowering them to make smart decisions about their health, the study said self-care is one of the most significant elements of a workplace wellness program; the clinic reported that positive direct benefits can even emerge within the first six to 18 months of program implementation.

Benefits of Self-Care

The clinic reported that self-care programs teach employees how to manage health symptoms and provide direction on what to do about them. This knowledge can suggest a more appropriate level of care and reduce unnecessary visits to medical facilities, according to the study.

For example, by looking up symptoms and using home health techniques, such as placing ice packs on a sprained ankle, a visit to the doctor may not be necessary, the study found.

However, self-care books, newsletters, nurse counseling via telephone and online tools also help employees recognize serious health symptoms, such as dizziness that might signal a stroke or chest pain that could indicate a heart attack, and advise them to seek immediate medical care, according to the reports.

Disease Management

The clinic said self-care also is an effective means of disease management. Educational programs may help a group of people with particular health concerns, such as diabetes or asthma, feel more comfortable about their conditions and learn behaviors than can prevent an escalation of the problems, the study found.

Educating employees about self-care also encourages them to take a more active role in their health management and allows them to make confident, informed choices about their health, the study noted.

Healthy Choices

Self-care can include all the things employees do to maintain their health, such as eating well, exercising, not smoking, using alcohol in moderation, managing stress, performing safety checks at home and at work and maintaining a healthy body weight, according to the reports.

However, Mayo Clinic says self-care also includes things employees should do when illness occurs, including:

* Knowing when to treat common illnesses or minor injuries at home, when to get medical attention and how to communicate effectively with doctors and other caregivers.

* Being prepared to respond effectively in an emergency and learning about general symptoms, such as fever or pain.

* Knowing how to achieve a higher quality of life even in cases of serious illness or chronic medical conditions.

* Seeing themselves as the most important members of their healthcare teams.


© 2003 Health Resources Publishing