Federal Million Hearts Program May Help Employees Lower Costs

Posted on Monday, April 01, 2019

A federal program from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services may help employers reduce costs associated with employee health problems - and result in healthier and more productive employees.

The program is called Million Hearts. Launched in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control, Million Hearts is an online portal designed to help educate consumers on how to embrace healthier eating habits and better lifestyle choices. Areas of emphasis include recipes and eating plans, reducing salt intake, and helping Americans become less susceptible to cardiovascular and digestive diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

The government's ambitious goal is to prevent one million strokes and heart attacks.

As for the workers themselves, in addition to preventing these catastrophic health outcomes, the government's intent is to help employees accomplish the following goals:

Communicate the importance of health to career success
Communicate the benefits of healthy employees to their employers
Help build a health-aware culture in the office
Decrease the need for chronic disease care and expensive medical intervention

What Can Employers Do?

Employers can support the effort - and reap significant benefits. A healthier workforce is more productive than a sick one. Workplace wellness programs can help employers suffer less from both absenteeism and the equally insidious presenteeism - that is, the tendency of workers to show up to work even when they are sick and cannot function to their full productive capacity. They may even present a safety hazard if they show up to work under some medications.

Healthier workers also result in lower insurance premiums for medical, long-term care and disability insurance plans, and may indirectly result in lower Workers' Compensation premiums as well, since healthy, fit workers recover from workplace injury faster than sick workers do.

To help realize the benefits, employers can take steps like these:

Provide healthier options in cafeterias.
Work with nearby food vendors to offer good but healthy alternatives to burgers and fries.
Provide workers with filtered or bottled water and fruits and vegetables, which may help keep employees from binge eating.
Provide incentives for workers to lose weight or quit smoking.
Encourage workers to engage in healthy activities such as exercising during lunch.
Offer discounts at nearby fitness clubs, or include the option in a Section 125 "cafeteria" plan.
Encourage employees to bike to work. Provide a safe and secure storage area for bicycles.

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