November is National Diabetes Month. Diabetes affects millions of Americans and it’s costing billions of dollars to manage and treat. More than 57 million people have pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome with a very high risk of developing diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than one-third of Americans will develop type 2 diabetes by the year 2050 unless radical changes are made to lifestyle and eating habits.
Employees with diabetes have medical expenditures that average 2.3 times higher than those without diabetes – and there are additional indirect costs including absenteeism and reduced productivity. Workers with diabetes between the ages of 18 to 64 average 8.3 lost work days per year compared to 1.7 days per year for those without diabetes.
Employers can help employees with diabetes and those suffering from metabolic syndrome (a medical condition that occurs when an individual has three or more of the following: increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels) by promoting healthy behaviors. Simple lifestyle changes can make a big impact on the symptoms of the disease. The CDC recommends that employers:
- Develop a supportive work environment for employees with diabetes so they feel comfortable adopting good diabetes control measures
- Provide opportunities for employees to adopt healthy lifestyles and reduce the risks of chronic diseases
- Coordinate worksite diabetes control efforts within the organization to make them more efficient as well as accountable
- Provide the highest quality medical care for people who are dealing with diabetes
It’s also important to educate employees about the prevalence of diabetes and pre-diabetes. Highlighting the behaviors that contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes and the practical, actionable steps individuals can take to reduce their risk can make a big difference in the health of your workforce. Invite speakers for lunch and learns about prevention, detection, and management of diabetes; create an internal newsletter highlighting the importance of healthy eating habits and prevention; bring in a wellness vendor to run a program for those suffering from metabolic syndrome.
Encourage employee participation by ensuring complete privacy. Make sure participants know that their health insurance premiums are not at risk of an increase should they engage in diabetes programs. Develop an incentive program for participation in the program. Financial incentives such as cash or gift cards are effective, but you can also consider financial coverage for testing supplies or offering in-house testing to encourage well-controlled glucose levels.
Taking proactive steps to ensure your employees manage their disease will active, healthy and productive. Wellness Workdays’ metabolic syndrome program has helped numerous employees reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Contact us to learn more.