Summary: Two-year study shows greatest impact for improved health from personalized coaching

Health care and health insurance costs are stiff in the United States. Therefore, anything that improves employee health and well-being can also improve an organization’s bottom line.

Unfortunately, improving health is not easy for people. It requires change. It requires focus, goal setting, and overcoming disappointment and frustration.  Coaches help people with change. So when I read this study it peaked my attention.

Participants in comprehensive workplace wellness programs achieve a significant reduction in health risks in as little as 18 months according to a new study conducted by the Principal Financial Group®. The study shows the greatest impact among participants who also received personalized health coaching.

For example, it is one thing to tell an employee that his or her weight is too high. It is another to help that employee reduce weight.

Almost all wellness program participants showed some improvement in health risk status, but for individuals participating in one-on-one health coaching, more than one in three (34%) moved from a high risk status to a lower risk category. This shift significantly decreases their likelihood to develop diabetes, heart attack or stroke. The percent of participants considered low-risk increased by more than 11%. This does have a measurable impact on your bottom line. People feel better and when they feel better they come to work ready to engage.

“Anecdotally we knew wellness programs were improving health and in some cases saving lives, but we wanted to quantify it,” said Lee Dukes, president of Principal Wellness Company, a subsidiary of the Principal Financial Group. “By using an evidence-based approach, we’ve taken an in-depth look at how wellness programs work in reducing individual health risk factors. Comprehensive wellness programs that include personalized health coaching demonstrate the most significant improvements.”

The study, which tracked 12,000 adults enrolled in Principal wellness programs over a two-year period, monitored several key indicators of metabolic syndrome including blood pressure, waist circumference, triglycerides and tobacco use. Metabolic syndrome, often a precursor to diabetes, heart attack or stroke, was used to identify participants at highest risk and those were referred into a health coaching program. Improvement or movement into a lower risk category was defined as no longer having metabolic syndrome.

“These individuals are much more likely to develop a chronic health condition, which will lead to higher medical costs over time,” noted Dukes. “Employers have limited benefit dollars and health care costs are often their most pressing concern, so employers need to look for the greatest return on their investment. These results reinforce the benefits to employers who offer comprehensive wellness programs.”

Health coaches tailor information to wellness program participants’ individual health goals. Through one-on-one interactions, ongoing activities and education, participants are encouraged to take small steps toward individual success. As a result, the participants stick with the program long enough to experience personal benefits such as losing weight, becoming tobacco free and overall feeling better.

Ongoing studies of this group will continue to evaluate the impact of engagement in other activities throughout the year and to measure the impact of health care claims costs over time.

If you are a health coach, there is some quantifiable information here to help you and the company you contract with to monitize the effect of your efforts. And a healthy team is a better performing team.

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by Dianne Crampton

Melting Your Stress Within 30 Days.  An excellent self-paced stress management coaching guide.