Step 12 – Know Your Numbers

ScreeningsWhat the experts say – In 2005 Safeway changed the way it engaged its employees and their health by rewarding them for engaging in healthy behavior.  Their plan was based on a 2005 study that gave them several insights. 1) 70% of all health-care costs are the direct result of behavior. 2) The second insight, which is well understood by the providers of health care, is that 74% of all costs are confined to four chronic conditions (cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity). 3) 80% of cardiovascular disease and diabetes is preventable, 4) 60% of cancers are preventable, and 5) more than 90% of obesity is preventable. Yep that’s right, 90+ percent! Safeway was able to build a culture of health and fitness in 4 years keeping per capita health expense flat, while the rest of the country saw increases of up to 38% over the same time period.  How you say? Biometric screening.  Four simple tests that took less than 10 minutes and a mechanism to track changes in the results.  According to Safeway’s results if the country had adopted their initiatives in 2005 our nation’s healthcare bill would be $550 billion less in 2009 and we would have been a much healthier and aware workforce.

How I did it. – It helped that I was the controller for one of the nation’s hottest startups whose job it was to introduce these measures to the workforce.  In 2007 RedBrick Health Corp (RBH) was created with the express goal of engaging employees in their health to help reign in the cost of employer sponsored health insurance.  I got my first biometric screening and was shocked.  Being a lean six sigma practitioner, I knew one thing was universally true. Things that get measured get done.  If you’re tracking it, you’re generally going to do something about it when it goes south.  4 simple tests were all I needed to get a good baseline of my health goals and it was off to the races.  I got my numbers for diabetes risk (Glucose/ A1c) , high blood pressure, cholesterol (LDL/HDL), and obesity through a BMI. (Body Mass Index) Now there is a lot of controversy surrounding body types and BMI, but even if you don’t subscribe to BMI measurement as a whole, it is still a great way to compare yourself to the populace and risk factors for obesity. RBH also has a tracking tool that allowed you to track your numbers over time, as well as tracking physical activity, calories burned, caloric intake, and progress made/loss against my stated goals. It was tedious at first to record and remember to enter the information, but once I made it a ritual it became easy peazy. If you have a health plan that offers biometric screening, take advantage of it.  If not, talk to your doctor about it and get the ball rolling to a better you.