Is your employer the secret to living longer and healthier?

(BPT) - It's that time of year when many Americans review their health care benefits to see if they have the coverage they need during open enrollment. If you don't enjoy this annual exercise, a new report by Deloitte's Center for Health Solutions suggests there's good reason to take a closer look at your benefits this year - your employer has the potential to help you live a longer and healthier life.

Even though the average life span is 77.9 years, Deloitte calculated that Americans are living just 65.9 years (or 85% of their years) in good health. According to the analysis, all Americans could potentially live up to 95% of their years in good health and live to be nearly 90 years old if employers think beyond their traditional health insurance offerings. This means that employers should reconsider a one-size-fits-all approach and think about more digital, virtual and gaming techniques to encourage healthy behaviors.

Not-so-fringe benefits

Deloitte found that businesses across industries are providing employees with a variety of well-being benefits. Beyond the health implications, employers tend to recognize there is a competitive advantage to these benefits to attract talent, and potentially improve productivity which can impact their organization's success. Deloitte suggests that employers are uniquely positioned to take the lead on influencing health improvements more broadly, beyond traditional health care benefits impacting health today and into retirement. How?

Three ways employers can support your health and well-being

  • Wearables and digital tools: According to the CDC, there is evidence that lifestyle modifications like following a healthy diet, creating social connections, engaging in appropriate exercise, managing stress and reducing smoking can dramatically change, or even reverse, the progression to diabetes, heart disease and certain other conditions. Some organizations provide employees with wearables and digital tools to help enable changes, especially when they're paired with coaching and nudging, according to a report by Brookings.
  • Telehealth: Virtual visits or telehealth is another approach for improving well-being. As reported by the National Institutes of Health, the pandemic expanded this option, enabling doctor visits and mental health services in virtual settings that can help improve access to care. Some studies found that access for underserved populations has improved as a result of virtual health.
  • Early screenings and services: Offering early screenings and services that address mental health and social isolation can contribute to healthier aging. Deloitte suggests providing employees with health-literacy tools, educational materials and support to help address challenges that can influence people's health, such as access to affordable housing, financial literacy, isolation, safety, clean air and water, and healthy food.

Take advantage of benefits and resources you're offered

Unfortunately, 68% of workers surveyed by Deloitte say they do not use the full value of the well-being resources their organizations offer because accessing programs is either too time-consuming, confusing or cumbersome.

"Exploring, understanding and asking questions about your benefits can help you live a longer and healthier life,' said Jay Bhatt, D.O., MPH, MPA, managing director of the Center for Health Solutions and Health Equity Institute, Deloitte Services LP. 'Employers that lean in with their workforce to help them make the most of their benefits, help ensure that it isn't one size fits all, and support behavior change may result in their employees living longer and healthier while also having an impact on reducing rising health care costs.'

To learn more about Deloitte's findings, read the full report titled, How employers can spark a movement to help us live longer and healthier lives.

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