Michigan Surgeon General Urges Businesses To Promote Employee Health
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 23, 2005
Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, Michigan Surgeon General, is urging businesses across Michigan to make small changes in their environment and policies to make it easier for employees to be healthier at work. The initiative aims to ultimately increase productivity and morale and reduce employee and employer health care costs.
Wisdom - joined by representatives from Michigan businesses and the Small Business Association of Michigan - announced the newest initiative in Michigan Steps Up, her statewide healthy lifestyles campaign. The campaign website, www.michiganstepsup.org, now provides resources for businesses to help employees move more, eat better, and lead a tobacco-free lifestyle.
"Unhealthy lifestyles take a significant toll on Michigan's physical health and fiscal health," Wisdom said. "Today we are asking businesses to take an important step toward not only improving their bottom line but also to help our ailing workforce and economy."
Employees who move more, eat better, and avoid using tobacco products may have higher morale, higher productivity, reduced absenteeism, and lower turnover. Over time, a healthier workforce will reduce future increases in health insurance costs and healthy employees will benefit from lower out-of-pocket expenses for medical care and prescription drugs.
Worksites are the best places to reach the majority of Michigan's adult citizens to encourage them to lead healthier lifestyles, according to Wisdom. While this can be difficult, especially for small businesses, Michigan businesses of all sizes now have access to low and no cost effective strategies that can assist them in promoting good health, including:
- Assessment tools that suggest changes for a healthier worksite
- Free, confidential employee health risk appraisals that can provide employees and employers with useful health information
- Incentives to make at least one change that supports healthy lifestyles at the worksite
- Low or no cost ways to support healthy lifestyle choices
- Contact information for businesses with exemplary health promotion programs
"We are asking businesses to take a look at what they're doing to support healthy lifestyles at work and to commit to making at least one change over the next 12 months," Wisdom said. "Even small changes can lead to big rewards."
A recent health care cost comparison study, commissioned by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and conducted by Altarum, compared the health of Michigan's workforce to benchmark states that compete with Michigan for new corporations and jobs. The study found that the health of its workforce could hinder Michigan's ability to compete. The study ranked Michigan first in death rates from heart disease and prescription drug use, second in obesity and diabetes, and sixth in number of smokers.
Roughly 62 percent of Michigan's adults are overweight or obese, which increases their risk for more than 30 preventable chronic diseases and conditions, including the leading causes of death in Michigan: heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. These diseases are mainly rooted in unhealthy eating, physical inactivity, and tobacco use.
About three-quarters of Michigan adults report getting less than the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity five or more days a week or not getting any physical activity at all. Physical inactivity in more than 4 million Michigan adults cost almost $8.9 billion in health care costs in 2002.