Is Your Wellness Health Screening Anemic?
By Ashley Guerieri, M.S., ACSM EP-C, Personal Health Coach & Client Engagement Specialist, Creo Wellness
Missing the Mark
The success of an effective corporate wellness program resides in its ability to improve employee health behavior, with the goal of promoting better morale, lessening absenteeism and, hopefully, lowering healthcare costs. Unfortunately, the main measures of wellness screening — height/weight, blood pressure and a finger-stick blood test — fall woefully short of this mark. First, research indicates that many of the traditional screening measures don’t effectively correlate to real-life adverse health events. For instance, one large population study found that more than half of the patients hospitalized for coronary artery disease had LDL cholesterol levels lower than those flagged as “high risk” by most screenings.1 And, to the less-healthy employees (the ones, in fact, who are much less likely to participate in employee wellness programs, are more likely to need wellness coaching and represent the biggest opportunity for savings), the kind of risk stratification that results from desultory wellness testing often sounds like more of the same demotivating messages they have received their whole life: lose weight, stop eating junk, get off the couch. There has to be a better way.
Changing the Message
If the current screening practices miss the mark, then what sort of questions would a more effective program be asking? First of all, if the message is prevention, we should be screening for the common and costly diseases, hopefully targeting risk before more advanced conditions arise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seven of the top ten causes of death in 2010 were chronic diseases, largely preventable with lifestyle intervention.2
Happily, the understanding of the root causes of chronic disease has taken great strides. Advances in lab testing make it possible to drill down beyond cholesterol and blood sugar to look at biomarkers more closely associated with future risk of disease.
Advanced lab markers include cholesterol lipoproteins, kidney and liver function, inflammation (fibrinogen and C-reactive protein), diabetes (including the gold-standard measures for measure, hemoglobin A1c and C-peptide) and thyroid and cortisol levels.
Population research bears out the efficacy of more nuanced assessments, with increasing understanding that disease risk arises within a system, not as a result of a single measure like LDL cholesterol.3 Take for example the role of chronic inflammation in disease promotion. Inflammation occurs when the tissues of the body are injured, mechanically or chemically. The redness and swelling that accompany an ankle sprain signal acute inflammation. The cell and DNA damage that results from poor diet, high blood sugar, cigarette smoking and stress signal chronic inflammation. Biomarkers of inflammation like C-reactive protein can predict cardiovascular disease and other conditions.4
Translating Knowledge into Motivation
Lab testing provides one piece of the puzzle, but the ultimate success comes when lab testing translates into empowering information. With highly individualized assessments, interventions like health coaching and dietary recommendations can become more specific, and more relevant to the participant.
There’s one more, extremely crucial, element to effective wellness screening. When screening information is aggregated and analyzed for a business as a whole, employers can make educated decisions on where to focus program spending. Adding lunch time yoga may be beneficial for a population that has elevated cortisol levels (indicating chronic stress), sleep issues and depression risk. Adding specifics to healthy eating initiatives (e.g., focusing on healthy fats to reduce inflammation) encourages better nutritional choices without overreliance on weight-loss messages.
The Creo Wellness program uses the strategies of advanced biometric testing described above, coupled with innovative, mobile-friendly patient engagement strategies to provide an entirely new approach to corporate wellness. Contact us to learn more today!
- Sachdeva et al. Lipid levels in patients hospitalized with coronary artery disease: an analysis of 136,905 hospitalizations in Get With the Guidelines. Am Heart J. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19081406#> 2009 Jan;157(1):111-117.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2008.08.010. Epub 2008 Oct 22.
- Chronic Diseases: The Leading Causes of Death and Disability in the United States, http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/
- Holten et al. Circulating biomarkers for predicting cardiovascular disease risk; a systematic review and comprehensive overview of meta-analyses. PLoS One. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23630624#> 2013 Apr 22;8(4):e62080. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062080. Print 2013.
- Brenner et al. A review of the application of inflammatory biomarkers in epidemiologic cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. <http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/23/9/1729.full> September 2014 23; 1729.
Creo was founded by an innovative, cross-disciplinary team of laboratory diagnostic, business finance and healthcare management veterans. Contact us to learn how our advanced blood testing, precision analytics, health coaching and technology build employee plans that are personalized and effective—delivering real health improvements with measurable reductions in long-term health plan costs to employers.