Getting Misguided Wellness Programs Back on Track
A new analysis backs up what sleep doctors have known for a long time—sleep disorders should be addressed first if companies want to boost productivity.
Are ubiquitous corporate wellness programs focusing on the wrong health problems? If the goal is to avoid sick days and lost productivity, the answer may be yes.
Wellness programs are a staple of American corporations, but a new analysis from a global human resources (HR) firm concludes that sleep disorders should be at the top of the list of health concerns. Using data from sources new and old, analysts listed the top 15 drivers of lost work time. Sleep disorders topped the list.
The remaining top 14 drivers were:
depression; fatigue; back/neck; anxiety; hypertension; other emotional; arthritis; obesity; chronic pain; headache; irritable bowel; high cholesterol; heart disease; and allergies. As it happens, OSA increases the risk of developing heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and even obesity according to some studies—that’s another four of the 15 drivers.
The new study which will be published in the upcoming June edition of Sleep Diagnosis and Therapy, reiterates that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) impacts one in 12 employees, yet 85% remain undiagnosed. Employers incur an estimated $3,200 to $4,000 in incremental annual health care spending for employees with unmanaged OSA.
For corporations, the numbers are powerful evidence that the time may be right to retool wellness programs to focus on sleep problems. Such a switch could yield considerable bang for the buck.
Various HR companies could fill this demand by taking over ineffective wellness programs and working with select manufacturers. Who will these manufacturers be? The good news for corporations looking for better options for employees is that treatment options are more diverse than ever.
Retooling is already happening in some quarters, with sleep entities partnering to offer employers a program focused solely on sleep health. The solution incorporates early identification and intervention to deliver medical cost savings while improving employee productivity and quality of life. The good news for persons needing treatment is that there is a diverse range of treatment options. Beyond the gold standard of CPAP, sleep physicians are increasingly recommending dental sleep appliances and expiratory positive air pressure (EPAP).
Source: Greg Thompson
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