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Wellness programs have value beyond medical cost savings: DMEC speaker

Wellness programs have value beyond medical cost savings: DMEC speaker

LAS VEGAS — The business value of having a wellness program and a healthy workforce goes beyond the potential to reduce medical costs, said a speaker at the Disability Management Employer Coalition's conference in Las Vegas.

During a Wednesday session on ways to keep workers healthy, keynote speaker Dr. Ronald S. Leopold, Atlanta-based national practice leader of health outcomes at Willis North America Inc., said most people in the business world see wellness as a means of reducing medical costs.

“The value of a wellness program should not just be contained in reducing medical costs,” Dr. Leopold said. “That's extremely shortsighted and I think our industry has taken a wrong turn when it comes to thinking about wellness solely as — or principally as — a means of reducing medical costs.”

Such programs that involve biometric screenings “are great at catching things, and they may help avert a pending crisis, but by and large they are a long-term strategy,” he said, adding that there's only payoff if employees stay with the company.

“We manage what we can measure, but not everything that can be measured always matters,” Dr. Leopold said. “And not everything that matters can always be discreetly measured.”

“A healthier workforce will be more productive in two key areas: absenteeism and presenteeism,” he said. “And by the way, for every country outside the United States … the main business value to a healthy working population is productivity. It's absenteeism. It's presenteeism. It's morale. It's retention.”

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