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Employees’ job worries trump health concerns, survey finds

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — As employers try to engage employees in health management programs to slow healthcare cost inflation, fewer employees are placing a high priority on managing and improving their health, according to a survey released Wednesday of more than 9,000 employees at large and midsize employers, conducted by Towers Watson.

“As employees cope with a period of high financial and personal stress, the focus on improving health has taken a back seat,” stated Jeff Levin-Scherz, a physician and senior healthcare consultant at Towers Watson. “Chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, are the No. 1 driver of healthcare costs, and employers are increasingly committed to offering programs that can empower employees to manage their health and prevent the risks that lead to these diseases,” he said. “[But] our findings reveal that this strategy faces an uphill battle in the current economic environment.”

The Towers Watson survey found that there has been a significant decline in employees’ focus on health over the past two years. For example, only 59% of employee respondents believe that managing their health is a top priority, down from 69% in 2008; and 59% of respondents have taken actions in the last two years to significantly improve their health, down from 65% in 2008. Only 1-in-5 employees used employer lifestyle management programs, which is down from 26% in 2008.

However, employees increasingly are accepting of employers offering incentives/penalties for health status and wellness efforts. Two-in-3 employees (67%) would be comfortable if their health plan or employer-reduced premium costs for healthy workers and those willing to take steps to manage their illness or lower their health risks, up from 64% in 2008. Nearly half of employees (47%) would be comfortable if their health plan or employer increased the premium costs for workers unwilling to take steps to manage their illness or lower their health risks, up from 39% in 2008.

On the positive side, employee awareness of their health risks is rising, with more employees participating in health-screening programs. According to the survey, 43% of employees completed a health risk assessment, up from 26% in 2008. In addition, 31% completed a biometric screening for body mass index and cholesterol and glucose levels, up from 18% in 2008.

Employees in poor health are the least engaged in the management of their health, and those in good health are the most engaged. Compared with healthy employees, those in poor health are less optimistic about their ability to improve their health and less likely than any other group to use employer wellness programs. Only 20% of employees in poor health are using programs to manage chronic conditions. In addition, employees in very good health (23%) are nearly twice as likely to use lifestyle management programs as those in poor health (13%).

Employees in poor health are less likely to believe their company promotes a healthy work environment (36% of employees with poor health versus 52% with very good health), are less likely to believe that managing health is a top priority (44% versus 68%) and are less likely to have taken actions in the last two years to significantly improve their health (45% versus 67%).

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Report: Bank promotes fitness with account incentives

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — Lose weight. Get paid.

That’s among the offerings at South Korea’s Hana Bank, according to published reports. Reuters reported Wednesday that the bank offers the “S-Line” program, whereby customers who burn calories, lose at least 5% of their body weight per year or hold a gym membership get a higher interest rate on their accounts.

The program, whose name refers to the Korean term for an hourglass physique, has existed since 2008.

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Target to open small-format store in Chicago

BY DSN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS — Another Target store is coming to downtown Chicago, as the retailer disclosed it would open a small-format store under the new CityTarget banner in the Sullivan Center at South State Street and Madison Street.

The company did not offer specifics on the square footage of the store or whether it would be a multilevel unit, but did indicate the store would open at some point in 2012. As for the product assortment, the company said, “CityTarget will offer guests the convenience of one-stop shopping with affordable fresh food, apartment essentials, on-trend fashions and exclusive designer collections.”

Target currently has 10 other stores in the Windy City, and the new downtown location will be less than one mile from an existing store located on the south side of downtown at 1154 Clark St. The Clark Street store offers a typical Target product assortment, including fresh food, a pharmacy and a health clinic. The company’s next closest store to downtown is in the McKinley Park Neighborhood at 1940 W. 33rd St., about four miles southwest of downtown.

As for the newest downtown location, it is part of a growth strategy disclosed by Target last year in which the reatiler indicated that one of its initiatives would involve opening more stores in urban locations. At that time, Seattle was disclosed as a market that would see an urban store in 2011.

The Chicago store will be located in a commercial property now known as Sullivan Center following a redevelopment project; the property also is widely known as the Carson Pirie Scott building after the defunct department store chain that once occupied it. The building was called one of the city’s more architecturally significant buildings by Mayor Richard Daley, who said Target would be an important addition to State Street.

“I applaud Target for bringing this urban store concept to Chicago, as well as the new jobs and economic opportunity this store will create,” Daley said.

John Griffith, Target EVP property development, said the company looks forward to preserving a Chicago treasure and blending in with the building’s aesthetic. “A hallmark of Target is our flexibility in store design, which allows us to bring high-quality products at great values to our urban guests,” Griffith said.

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