Why Corporate Investment in Wellness is Needed . . . Now.
By Randy McCaig
Director, Product Management
Employee Wellness Programs
I was recently talking with a client about our wellness programs and explaining to him how they allow business to identify and address the root causes of corporate health-related costs. The client’s response was not new to me, but every time I hear it, it hits me like a bullet, “Why should I spend money on the health of my employees when healthcare is provided for free in Canada? I don’t think it is my company’s role to pay to meet basic healthcare needs when employees can just go to their family physician.”
Before I give my answer, let’s take a step back and go over some *boring* stats and facts that give us some clues.
Canadian Physician Shortage
- Over 4.6MM Canadians don’t have a family physician
(College of Family Physicians of Canada, 2008)
- 2MM in Quebec (Quebec Federation of General Practitioners, 2010)
- 850K in Ontario (Ontario Medical Association, 2008)
- 500K in Alberta (Alberta Medical Association, 2005)
- 250K in British Columbia (B.C. Medical Association, 2010)
Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors
- Nine in 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease or stroke
- Smoking, alcohol, physical inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes
(Canadian Heart Health Strategy-Action Plan Steering Committee, 2009)
- 19% of Canadians aged 20 to 79 are hypertensive ≈ 4.6MM
Another 20% are pre-hypertensive ≈ 4.8MM
(Statistics Canada, 2010)
- About 1.8MM Canadians aged 12 and over have been diagnosed with diabetes. (Canadian Community Health Survey, 2005)
- Researchers project an increase of diagnosed diabetes in Canada to 2.4MM by the year 2016. (Canadian Diabetes Association 2008)
- Almost 40% of Canadian adults are classified as having high blood cholesterol levels (Canadian Health Measures Survey, 2009)
- 19% of Canadians 15 and older smoke (about 5.2MM Canadians)
(Health Canada, 2007)
- Almost 60% of adults ages 18 and over, or 14.1MM Canadians, are overweight or obese (Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, 2010)
- 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime
(Canadian Mental Health Association, 2010)
- By 2020, depression alone will be the second leading cause of illness and disability after heart disease (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2010)
- In the last two decades, drug spending in Canada has increased by 721% – from $3B in 1985 to $21 billion in 2006. (Mercer, 2009)
- In 2009, the cost of drugs surpassed the $30B mark (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2010)
Modifiable Risk Factors
- Over 70% of all healthcare costs in Canada are related to chronic diseases, many of which can be prevented or better managed through more appropriate lifestyle choices (Health Canada, 2009)
(This concludes the *boring* statistics section)
So now you are thinking . . . ‘That’s in the past, things will get better. Right???’
Well . . .
The fact is that 4.6MM Canadians are still without a family physician – depending on where you are located, that could be up to 1 in every 4 of your employees. For the Canadians who do have a family physician, there is a strong focus on diagnosis and not necessarily on prevention; visits with their physician usually only last from 5 to 10 minutes, and the reality is that many patients will probably walk out of their appointments with only a prescription and little-to-no preventive counselling. Fuelling this problem are the many Canadians who are conditioned to go to the doctor only when something is wrong. Usually by then, the damage has already been done.
There is no shortage of reports that note that the Canadian workforce is aging and many workers are delaying retirement. This perfect storm will inevitably cause even higher health-related costs for employers. A Mercer report in late 2009 indicated that more comprehensive benefit plans have been used as a way to attract and retain talent, but “appreciation has come with the costs associated with more generous benefits”. Furthermore, provincial governments are actively searching for ways to pass health costs to the private sector.
Now that I have painted this picture, let’s go back to the question that prompted me to write this article to start with:
“Why should I spend money on the health of my employees when healthcare is provided for free in Canada? I don’t think it is my company’s role to pay to meet basic healthcare needs when employees can just go to their family physician.”
I guess I could have just said: “Because your company is paying for it now, you will be paying more for it in the future if you don’t do anything about it, and most importantly, no one else is going to do it for you.” . . . but that would not have been as fun.
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