Monthly Archives: May 2017

Financial Stress Physiological Stress

Financial Stress – An Integral Part of our Health and Wellness Programs

Financial stress …..   We are what we think.

We have all had sleepless nights worrying about something…chances are, though,  it was about our finances.

financial stress in wellness programs BestInCorporateHealth.comAn April 2017 study by CreditCards.com ( a credit card comparison company) showed money is causing 65% of Americans to lose sleep at night.  Healthcare & insurance costs overtook retirement savings as the primary source of anxiety, for the first time in a decade. This is a 3% increase in sleepless nights since 2015.

Credit-debt surged passed the $1 trillion mark, according to Federal Reserve data released earlier this month

High tuitions and student loans are also a major source of stress with 34% of respondents losing sleep over educational costs.

Stress about healthcare costs have risen 9% in the past year…

High financial stress levels and concerns over debt are associated with increased risk for ulcers, migraines, heart attacks, and of course sleep disturbances, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), and those conditions are “ just the beginning of how your money affects your body and mind.” As a result of financial stress, people adopt poor coping mechanisms, lifestyle choices. In this study the APA found 69% of Americans were stressed about money, and the most common coping mechanisms included binge eating and excessive alcohol consumption and depression is a common result of financial stress.

The APA recognizes financial stress as the leading cause of unhealthy behaviors like smoking, weight gain, and alcohol and drug abuse. Other behaviors linked to financial stress are gambling and overextending credit balances. When employees turn to these coping mechanisms, the APA concluded that the stress strikes back with an even greater intensity.

Financial stress is accepted as a major cause of metabolic syndrome, which can lead to diabetes, and combine that with binge eating? A recipe for metabolic mayhem. Uncontrolled diabetes leads to a number of other chronic illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis……Cost-related nonadherence  (CRN) to diabetic protocol, is estimated to impact 20% of all patients in the United States.

SunTrust Bank: Finances are the leading cause of stress in a relationship, according to a financial stress as a source of relationship stress Best In Corporate Healthsurvey of people in a relationship or partnership. 35% of all respondents experiencing relationship stress said money was the primary cause of friction.

A 2013 study found that the greater the financial stress – regardless of personal income – the poorer a person’s  performance was on an IQ test….Well – we all know when we are worried about finances – it is hard to think and focus on anything else.

The 2017 study from PwC The Employee Financial Wellness Survey found Financial stress is negatively impacting employees and costing employers. Stressed employees are found to be less productive, take time off from work to deal with their finances, and are more likely to cite health issues caused by financial stress.

Another very interesting finding of the PWC study was only 44% of those surveyed believe that their employer cares about their financial well-being ….and…..54% of millennials said that their loyalty to their employer is influenced by how much their employer cares about their financial well-being.

A Feb. 2015 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suicide rose 40% since 1999, the sharpest rise started in 2007. The researchers concluded the economic downturn of 2007-2009 was a contributing factor, boosting depression and anxiety among many Americans who faced job layoffs, declining home values, household financial difficulties, and reductions in retirement savings. These “external economic factors” were tied to 37.5 percent of all suicides in 2010 — rising from 32.9 percent in 2005.

where do we even start…..

Our greatest stressor is when we feel we lose control of a situation.

Financial wellness  is intricately attached to health and wellness. A financially stressed financial stress and workplace productivity Best In Corporate Healthemployee could have a number of potential health and productivity issues. Financial stress leads to an avalanche of other well known health & workplace productivity issues.

What can the employer do?

In January 2017, SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) said 2017 should be the year of employee financial wellness programs…….

  • If a financial wellness program is in place – are employees participating? If not, why?
  • Create a curriculum, which will install confidence in the employees as to the success – alleviate fears over potential frustrations with the program. Survey employees, all ages and stages of life as to what will best help them. Give them a selection – many employees might not know many of the options are even possible.
  • Technology friendly: include sites, apps for employees to engage in, build knowledge over the many financial topics, helping them identify what will be most useful for them
  • Access to financial professionals you have screened  – saving the employees the exasperating, daunting task of choosing a financial professional. There are a number of national, regional, private…..organizations specializing in helping employers help employees in financial turmoil.  Just as in health programs, we have to help employees differentiate between professionals who have a hidden agenda- marketing products for their own ulterior motive, vs suggesting products that truly fit the employees needs. Again, when people are stressed over a sensitive topic – they need unbiased help in making decisions, implementation and follow through
  • Keep tracking adherence – the last thing we want is people quitting – feeling helpless
  • As someone who offers webinars regularly, I get very picky over webinar presentations. With webinars and coaching – I insist on live and interactive. Prerecorded are only for follow up. Engagement is just too important, especially when we are talking about people who could be stressed. It is almost cathartic to people when they realize there are others in the same situation. I always have various provisions for people to ask questions anonymously, but team support can be therapeutic here. The loneliness of watching webinars alone ……not my choice. Sure, follow up coaching – one on one – great. A well lead live, interactive webinar can be a great way to put people at ease, to deal with a situation.

And… I am going to add to that…… health and wellness programs  that include addiction recovery components. Nobody ever wants to think of themselves as an addict….harsh label…however as we have seen financial stress often leads to addictive behaviors.  Example: we saw binge eating is a common byproduct of financial stress. Providing healthy eating programs…..will not cover the binge eating. Undoing coping mechanisms is a behavioral issue. Stress and depression programs and/or counselling may very well be necessary as well.

Fitness programs are very often a central part of addiction recovery, especially binge eating, smoking  and drugs & alcoholism, frequently associated with financial stress. I have seen the results, read the studies,  the success of wearable devices for adherence to these very specific recovery programs is key to recovery, that feeling and proof of accomplishment, and gaining control to conquer the black cloud from the financial stress. My preferred health tracker for incentive programs, amongst its lengthy list of biomarkers is releasing an add on later this summer (at no extra charge) that picks up on blood alcohol levels. In the case of addiction recovery, a health tracker that can monitor the most possible biomarkers is preferred. Fluctuations in a number of biomarkers can relay significant data.

Financial wellness in workplace wellness programs....Best In Corporate Health

Although I personally do not lead financial wellness programs, I do have very experienced financial professionals, with thorough understanding of the human heart, mind & self respect, that do offer these webinars for my health and wellness programs. I know I cannot claim to offer complete wellness programs without offering financial health. I get very irritated when I hear people use cliches such as “money doesn’t matter”, “money isn’t everything”. Reality check…..we can’t pay for the groceries by kissing the cashier. We all want to provide for our loved ones. We all agree health is a wealth, but undeniably, wealth is a part of health.

Chief Health Enthusiast – Best In Corporate Health

Shira Litwack, Corporate Program Designer
Shira Litwack – The Corporate Happy Place medical fitness professional, Cancer Exercise Specialist , Medical Exercise Specialist, Holistic Nutritionist

Employee Wellness Toronto, Ontario – But offered worldwide!

  • Shira is regularly consulted by Naturopaths, oncologists, health coaches on cancer exercise and exercise adherence.
  • Has assembled over 20 health and fitness professionals with varying specialties to bring to corporate wellness programs
  • Platforms include: Speaking, One-one/group health coaching, Retreats, Course development for in house delivery, Metrics to measure success available, Partners always included
  • Now offering live interactive webinars, just as if each participant has a personal health coach – making corporate wellness programs affordable to all.
  • Shira has been interviewed & published in hundreds of resources over the last 12 years:

Articles featured in: ezines, ArticlesInk, European Registry of Exercise Professionals, The National Post, Investment Executive Magazine, Directory of Greater Toronto, Canadian Leukemia & Lymphoma Association, Prostate Cancer Canada, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Anytime Fitness, Today’s Black Woman, Today’s Seniors, Medical Fitness Network, FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered), Willow (Breast & Hereditary Cancer Support),Myeloma Canada, Cancer Exercise Training Institute, Urban Poling for Breast Cancer, ROW – Recovery on Water for Breast Cancer, Sirius XM Doctor Radio


Health tracking, incentives, corporate health culture BestInCorporateHeath.com

Health Tracking with Wearable Devices

Health Tracking – The #1 Way to Promote Proactive Healthcare

Health tracking, incentives, corporate health culture BestInCorporateHeath.comHealth tracking is the most motivating, effective form of  health support. I am devastated when I see articles knocking them down, even if unintentionally. Not all forms of health tracking are equal in terms of data  or capabilities. However, fitness trackers are powerful, and even if certain trackers may slack in certain areas – an all or none approach in anything, loses many people.

In my many years of medical fitness, corporate health….I have worked with thousands of people who feel helpless or just too busy and stressed to think about their health. I have also seen the power of fitness trackers, healthy competition -both with themselves and others.

Our wearable devices have come a very long way from the plastic pedometers in the Special K box of cereal. The variation between devices is immense. My goal here is to help sort through using the trackers effectively for adherence and sustainability, and choosing the right tracker for you or your employees.

Just an fyi…..I have looked over many of the lists comparing  available health trackers……very few of these lists present all the trackers available….I don’t know…..Maybe they don’t want to compare their favoured tracker to possible competition – beware. The truth is – when choosing a tracker – know the truth – know what is important to you. What biometrics and activity  would you like to track? What do you find the most motivating? What is within your budget? Some of the more celebrated devices do NOT supply the most thorough data, and are very expensive. Make your choice based on science and fact, not marketing budgets.

February 2017 study: HERO ( Health Enhancement Research Organization) Wearables in Wellness Case Study Report:

  • BP  started incorporating wearables in 2013.  More than 75% of eligible participants enrol in the company’s annual “Million Step Challenge,” and 79% reach their goal.
  • HERO report makes clear, wearables are most effective when employers understand their role in a larger wellness initiative………….“We see a lot of promise in the use of wearables as a component of a comprehensive workplace wellness program,” says Jessica Grossmeier, vice president of research for HERO. “Early research supports that a device, on its own, will not change health behaviors over the long term.”
  • Incorporate wearables into a broader program that goes beyond a single challenge focused on physical activity. Leverage interest in wearables to engage individuals in other health and well-being programs.
  • Provide ongoing enhancements to program design and engagement strategies, never allowing the program to feel stale.
  • Keep programs relevant and fresh by responding to program evaluation data and employee feedback to continuously improve your approach.
  • Develop goals and objectives for your program and leverage available wearables data to evaluate achievement of those goals.

Its unfortunate but the calorie somehow stole the spotlight with health and fitness. Yes, we must watch our calorie intake, and try to make sure the calories we consume feed us the nutrition we need. However, lets take a look at the painfully oversimplified equation:

Health tracking wearable devices BestInCorporateHealth.com
It’s Complicated….Very Complicated

Calories IN − Calories Burned we lose weight or gain weight

If only life were so simple….the truth is knowing these variables accurately……NO

It became very popular for many years for cardio respiratory equipment – treadmills, health tracking with wearable devices Best in Corporate Health
ellipticals, stair climbers, bikes…..to provide “calories burned”. This number is calculated based on the weight entered at the start  of the workout, age,  sometimes heart rate, duration of workout, effort…..et voila – we are told the calories we burned. Again – this is calculated based on some generalized superficial data, not on the individual and their metabolic rate and other unique data such as lean muscle mass or our basal metabolic rate.

Perhaps, in our wellness programs we should focus on optimizing our metabolism by fine tuning the many factors that sabotage our best efforts. Track those variables and behaviors. Many of our “best intentions” to improve our health – actually back fire on us – causing metabolic mayhem.

Many fitness trackers do not gather the data necessary to give an accurate number of calories burned – thats totally OK – however, do not depend on this number in making health decisions. Example: Your fitness tracker told you that you just burned 1,000 calories in that 1 hour at the gym……that, sorry to burst your bubble, is not very likely. Please don’t go out and have a hunk of red velvet cake based on those numbers.

A recent study by Stanford researchers demonstrated that most fitness trackers are not accurate with calorie expenditure data. As explained above, calorie expenditure is a calculated value – determined by a number of biomarkers. If the tracker does not measure those variables – it is not going to provide the most accurate measure of calorie expenditure. If accurate calorie expenditure is the important feature of health tracking for you, choose a tracker that measures the pertinent data to make that calculation.

Physical Inactivity is the new smoking. We need to get people physically active for mind, body and soul, for the future of our children and the future of our economy. Health tracking promotes:

  • health… proactive, predictive and chronic care health care
  • a productive workforce
  • a healthy economy
  • a solid pivotal position for creating wellness programs
  • creating health challenges and healthy competition motivating adherence
  • camaraderie
  • corporate health culture
  • family health
  • healthy lifestyle choices
  • good moods and happy hormones

I am in awe that we have the technology to really monitor our health – of course wearable devices  are not a replacement of medical advice and diagnostics – but they are an incredible way to take charge of our health, and finally make that move from our society of sick care to a society of true health care.

 

Chief Health Enthusiast – Best In Corporate Health

Shira Litwack, Corporate Program Designer
Shira Litwack, medical fitness professional, Cancer Exercise Specialist , Medical Exercise Specialist, Holistic Nutritionist

Employee Wellness Toronto, Ontario – But offered worldwide!

  • Shira is regularly consulted by Naturopaths, oncologists, health coaches on cancer exercise and exercise adherence.
  • Has assembled over 20 health and fitness professionals with varying specialties to bring to corporate wellness programs
  • Platforms include: Speaking, One-one/group health coaching, Retreats, Course development for in house delivery, Metrics to measure success available, Partners always included
  • Now offering live interactive webinars, just as if each participant has a personal health coach – making corporate wellness programs affordable to all.
  • Shira has been interviewed & published in hundreds of resources over the last 12 years:

Articles featured in: ezines, ArticlesInk, European Registry of Exercise Professionals, The National Post, Investment Executive Magazine, Directory of Greater Toronto, Canadian Leukemia & Lymphoma Association, Prostate Cancer Canada, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Anytime Fitness, Today’s Black Woman, Today’s Seniors, Medical Fitness Network, FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered), Willow (Breast & Hereditary Cancer Support),Myeloma Canada, Cancer Exercise Training Institute, Urban Poling for Breast Cancer, ROW – Recovery on Water for Breast Cancer, Sirius XM Doctor Radio

Corporate Responsibility And Health Centricity

Corporate Responsibility Through Preventative Healthcare

Enabling corporate responsibility is our duty as anyone who services the corporate world… third party advisors, HROs and  yes, corporate wellness providers. We lead   people to  healthier, happier more productive  lives,  fulfilling on many levels a large part of corporate responsibility. Connecting employee health to larger societal health is vital. We all know the studies,  healthy employees are more productive, less absenteeism and presenteeism. … As a company develops a more holistic understanding of how health and wellness are linked to other important social and environmental challenges, and business challenges, it creates an awakening to the many intricacies and facets of employee health. Where many corporate health models sabotage their own success – is weak follow through.

  • presenting in a manner that is supportive of participation
  • enabling implementation and adherence
  • incentivizing ➪for continual support  and adherence & creating a corporate health culture

Our  current model of healthcare is sick care, and sadly, employers are drowning by following this same path. Health care dollars are usurped from a reactive, episodic acute care model, and of course the long term needs and dollars of chronic care. We can find different dollar values thrown around, depending on which of the thousands of costs are being tallied, but suffice it to say chronic care costs, between care and lost productivity hundreds of billions yearly.

The massive opportunity for the health of society and our economy:

 Preventive healthcare

Leading healthier lives (which is a sweeping statement)  and stopping the onset of illness is the holy grail of healthcare transformation and sustainability. It is  the ultimate investment companies can make.  We all agree we are only as strong, resilient and energized as our people.

In terms of corporate health, the model of preventive care can be further defined for implementation and precision:

Proactive care solutions: Providing solid, science based knowledge of healthier living, helping employees with implementation, adherence, provides a health centric motivating environment to respect the endless value of health.  A proactive approach also ensures that preventive action is taken to intervene well before the onset of symptoms, far before illness. Proactive health should not be confused with diagnostics, which are a part of proactive health, but certainly not the only aspect of a proactive process.

Predictive care solutions leverage cutting-edge health technologies and sophisticated gathering of  data to not only stratify risk, but even predict risk and intervene even further upstream. This can be done through effective health risk assessments (HRA), metrics and reporting from the proactive tools.  Predictive care solutions available  and are a lost opportunity for health when not implemented. With the increased collection of personal health and lifestyle data and improved analytics, we can generate accurate insights earlier. This  allows us to anticipate issues, pinpointing where behavioural intervention is needed and provide actions to take before risk factors even arise.

NCD: Non-infectious and non-transmissible diseases that may be caused by genetic or

Corporate Responsibility Preventative health employee wellness Best In Corporate Health
Breakdown NCD: Courtesy World Economic Forum

behavioral factors and generally have a slow progression (could have been incubating for years  in which hopefully identified and prevented) and long duration. These include cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes. According to the CDC, 80% of chronic illness is lifestyle, behavioral, however, people need to be made aware of what many of these behaviors and exposures are. 

According to a study released in 2011 by the World Economic Forum, Harvard School of Public Health “The U.S. Government and Global Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Efforts”:

  • NCDs are the leading causes of death and disability globally, killing more than three in five people worldwide and responsible for nearly half of the global burden of disease.
  • Among the leading causes of preventable illness and related disability
  • Cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes account for about 80% of NCD deaths
  • NCDs are responsible for 3.9 million deaths each year in the Region of the Americas, representing 3⁄4 of all deaths.
  • An estimated 200 million people in the Americas are living with NCDs, which has a tremendous impact on their life, well-being, and ability to work. This, in turn, poses major challenges to the economy, the health system and other sectors of society.
  • If  modifiable risk factors  (behavioral) were eliminated, 80% of all heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes would be prevented and over 40% of cancer would be prevented.
  • The causes of NCDs and their risk factors are largely determined by the social, physical and economic environment. Thus, combating NCDs requires action on the social determinants in a person’s environment, not just healthcare. Creating healthy environments and making healthy choices available and known, are critical.

Just a scary stat: Diabetes and Insulin, our master hormone: $245 Billion, Annually . Diabetes is 90% preventable

Conclusion from World Economic Forum study on Non Communicable Diseases:

A final thought: Economic policy-makers are naturally concerned about economic growth. The evidence presented in this report indicates that it would be illogical and irresponsible to care about economic growth and simultaneously ignore NCDs. Interventions in this area will undeniably be costly. But inaction is likely to be far more costly.

Corporate wellness programs are potentially an affordable, very effective way to reduce the economic, personal and social burden of illness. Shifting to a preventive paradigm requires a holistic and employee-centred approach that involves participation  and dedication from employers and employees. Again, we need to provide programs that

  • Provide solid science
  • Assess employee needs
  • Is supportive of corporate responsibility
  • Teach, don’t preach
  • Interaction on numerous levels vital to learning and sustainability
  • Engage the employee to participate
  • Models a corporate loyalty to the employee
  • Creates camaraderie & passion  to infuse  the corporate health culture
  • Inclusive of the science of change and behavioral modification
  • Implementation  – providing employees the guidance for adherence, work/life integration, organization and time
  • Is inclusive of family support
  • Incentivize the employee for participation in a manner that is supportive of the employee’s health efforts and the health centric environment of the company
  • It HAS to be fun, invigorating, encouraging…not another miserable obligation and time demand in the employee’s life

Follow the hard science.  A number of vague studies have been  released stating that proactive health and wellness programs do not really impact the corporate bottom line. Where these  myopic snapshot falls short…. …what are they measuring? Do they have an accurate, measurable value, scientific means of data collection as to illnesses that were prevented? Were they categorizing all corporate wellness initiatives into one lump? What were the measures of adherence?  For these studies to deny the impact of preventative health education and implementation, is to deny greater studies lead by global health researchers and organizations….. Science proves that a strong proactive model for health which preempts illness, acute and chronic, is vital for health and economics.

World Health Organization on Corporate Responsibility:

Corporate Responsibility Best In Corporate Health
Courtesy World Health Organization

“The workplace directly influences the physical, mental, economic and social well-being of workers and in turn the health of their families, communities and society. It offers an ideal setting and infrastructure to support the promotion of health of a large audience. The health of workers is also affected by non-work related factors.”

“A health-promoting workplace recognizes that a healthy workforce is essential and integrates policies, systems and practices conducive to health at all levels of the organization. Rather than a series of projects, workforce health promotion is an ongoing process for improving work and health.”

Providing health information is a start, but only a start. Corporate responsibility affects:  shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees and their families, communities, financiers, society…..and of course their own survival. The impact of health is omnipotent.

Corporate Responsibility with Health….Best In Corporate Health

 

Shira Litwack, Corporate Program Designer
Shira Litwack, medical fitness professional, Cancer Exercise Specialist , Medical Exercise Specialist, Holistic Nutritionist

Chief Health Enthusiast – Best In Corporate Health

Employee Wellness Toronto, Ontario – But offered worldwide!

  • Shira is regularly consulted by Naturopaths, oncologists, health coaches on cancer exercise and exercise adherence.
  • Has assembled over 20 health and fitness professionals with varying specialties to bring to corporate wellness programs
  • Platforms include: Speaking, One-one/group health coaching, Retreats, Course development for in house delivery, Metrics to measure success available, Partners always included
  • Now offering live interactive webinars, just as if each participant has a personal health coach – making corporate wellness programs affordable to all.
  • Shira has been interviewed & published in hundreds of resources over the last 12 years:

Articles featured in: ezines, ArticlesInk, European Registry of Exercise Professionals, The National Post, Investment Executive Magazine, Directory of Greater Toronto, Canadian Leukemia & Lymphoma Association, Prostate Cancer Canada, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Anytime Fitness, Today’s Black Woman, Today’s Seniors, Medical Fitness Network, FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered), Willow (Breast & Hereditary Cancer Support),Myeloma Canada, Cancer Exercise Training Institute, Urban Poling for Breast Cancer, ROW – Recovery on Water for Breast Cancer, Sirius XM Doctor Radio