Yesterday, the Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits Division of the US Chamber of Commerce convened a group of experts for a symposium called "The Case for Wellness Programs: From Evidence to Practice."
Representatives from Congress, CDC, insurers, and business spoke about the need for employers to invest in work-based health management programs for their employees as a way to both improve health and manage healthcare spending--in other words, sometimes you gotta spend money to save money.
Our own Deirdre Connelly gave the luncheon address. Deirdre remarked that she is pleased to hear our legislators talking about addressing the real driver of our healthcare costs--chronic diseases and conditions, such as Alzheimer's Disease, asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity--as they debate the best way to move forward on this critical issue.
Controlling the costs associated with chronic diseases will move us a long way toward putting our healthcare system back on track--and making life better for patients.
First, disease prevention must be a higher priority. We must teach and encourage people to eat healthier, exercise more, and visit their doctors for regular check-ups. Vaccines also play a major role as they can help prevent diseases from developing in the first place.
Second, when people do become sick, we must help them manage their diseases so they don't suffer worsening consequences--and cost the system more in the long run.
Third, we must preserve the incentives for innovation that will lead to new and better healthcare for tomorrow.
From the common cold and chronic diseases to a global pandemic, our economy is impacted by the health of our workers. If an employer can prevent employees from becoming sick--or even better, help them get healthier--they will be more productive. We've seen examples from Asheville, the Diabetes Ten City Challenge, and many big corporations that show great results. More companies should be investing in employee health to save on healthcare spending.
But what I really liked was how Deirdre brought home the need for continued investment in research:
"Thinking about the effects of chronic diseases on the elderly reminds me of the words of the poet Dylan Thomas. His father, David, who was a robust man most of his life, became blind and frail in his eighties. Thomas was so pained at seeing his virile father weaken with age, that he did the only thing he knew--he wrote. He penned the poem 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight' as his way of dealing with the affects of aging on his father.
We as a society, however, must not go gently, and allow preventable and treatable chronic diseases to burden the healthcare system. We must never stop our search for better medicines. Rather, we must harness the passion for discovery upon which this country was built and encourage the development of innovative treatments for chronic diseases."