Monday, July 6, 2009

Are you a health-risk ? $100 to find out.

I visited and went straight to the Reports and Awards page. This headline caught my eye: Texas Health Resources Recognized by National Business Group on Health as Leading Employer Promoting Healthy Lifestyles for Employees .63 employers were awarded prizes for encouraging employees to adopt a more healthy lifestyle. Texas pays them to. They have a wellness program, called Be Healthy, which promotes awareness, healthy lifestyle choices, and disease prevention. Each year, employees are invited to complete a health risk assessment and are given a $100 award for doing so. Additional awards are given for getting a physical, lab panel, various health screenings, or for taking a stress assessment. With 18,000 employees, if all opt in, thats an investment of $1.8 million and more, depending on how many choose to do a full physical or feel particularly stressed. (I have to say, i wouldnt mind someone giving me $100 every time i went to the see the family doc).
I wonder what happens once employees take the risk assessment and what ethical questions this poses for the organization. Do employees waiver right to secrecy and disclose the results of their risk assessment to Texas? Is this a a precondition for getting the prize money ? And if so, what consequences could this have on their continued employment? No doubt that by any standards, its better to face up to the risks than ignore them, but do i really want my employer knowing the exact location of all my warts and the BMI effect of lask weeks 4 Chunkey Monkeys?
I also wonder what happens if the assessment shows that there is a real risk ? Does the employer have some obligation to support the employee in his or her plans to address these health risks? And what form does that support take?
And finally, as i am doing so much wondering, I will add the point about effects of the risk assessment on the employee's performance, motivation or future potential in the workplace. And the implications for her/his next salary review.

Now, Texas Health dont produce a Corporate Reponsibility Report and there is nothing on their website about this.(Mantra no 6: Transparency is a Virtue) So i to continue to wonder. (fortunately, being a woman, i am a great multitasker, so i can wonder and do 14 other things at the same time) .

This is an interesting issue, and one which i wonder about as i review responsible employment practices for clients, especially those inthe pharma or healthcare industry. Healthcare is their core business proposition, so one would expect that the employees of such an organization would gain some benefit through the internal application of CR material issues. And this is beyond the responsibility of employers to provide a healthy working environment and even the "enlightened self-interest" of employers through investing in healthy a workforce. I wonder if $1.8 million in annual health risk assessments exceeds the potential costs of employees living unhealthy lifestyles ?

Finally, well done to Texas Health, despite my trademark flippancy, i do applaud the intent to encourage employee wellbeing, and see this as a good example for others. As i am self-employed, i wonder how much i can afford to pay myself to do a health risk assessment. And if i should reveal the results to myself or not.... hmmm... tough question

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm based in Israel . Visit our website at:

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