Terry Fox was determined to play basketball but took up long-distance running out of a desire to please—and out of respect for—his coach. Wayne Gretzky attributes his skill and success to the brilliant coaching on their backyard rink from his father, Walter. Clara Hughes was so inspired by Peter Williamson, her first coach, that without him, she says she would never have committed to skating. Her success in the sport would never have happened.
What do Terry Fox, Wayne Gretzky and Clara Hughes all have in common? Apart from being Canadian, they’re also all amazing athletes! And how did they achieve their “greatness”? Through hard work, dedication and with the help of supportive coaches. Whether it was in sports, music, school, or starting our careers, many of us had that one coach or mentor who inspired us to achieve more than we ever thought possible.
We typically associate coaching with sports, but a new type of coaching is gaining traction—Health Coaching. A health coach is trained to help you set and work towards achieving health and wellness goals. Health coaches are often knowledgeable about behaviour modification techniques and may specialize in fitness, nutrition, weight management, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or other chronic diseases. These coaches focus on modifiable risk factors such as diet, exercise, stress, sleep, alcohol consumption, and smoking. After assessing an employee’s lifestyle risk factors and readiness for change, a health coach will design a program to meet specific needs and goals.
How can this service benefit employers?
The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that the chronic disease rate is climbing faster among people below the age of 65 than it is among people in older age bands. Fifty-eight percent of adult Canadians have at least one chronic disease, up from 37 percent in 2007. But chronic disease isn’t just having an impact on our ageing grandparents; it’s affecting people of all ages, including young adults—including your employees.
How does chronic disease impact the workplace?
Chronic disease costs an estimated $122 billion in lost productivity for the Canadian economy.
- Four out of five of the most common reasons for disability are a result of chronic conditions (SLF, Chronic Disease in the Workplace, 2016)
- Twenty percent of claimants drive 80 percent of drug costs resulting from an average of 7.8 chronic conditions for which the drug spend is 15 times higher than it is for those without chronic conditions. (ESC Drug Trends, 2018)
- Individuals living with Type 2 Diabetes are absent from work two to 10 days more per year than those without the condition (SLF Chronic Disease in the Workplace, 2016)
- Thirty-eight percent of people living with chronic disease say that their health condition has caused them to miss work, or made it more difficult to perform their duties (2016 Sanofi Survey) effectively
We know that on average, 80 percent of chronic disease incidence and 70 percent of the associated costs are avoidable through healthy lifestyle modifications (Public Health Agency of Canada, Chronic Disease Prevention Challenges in Canada). According to Benefits Canada, personalized health coaching for chronic disease was one of the top five wellness initiatives among employers in 2018, and the 2017 Sanofi report found that 61 percent of employees surveyed would be interested in a health coaching program. A health coaching initiative is a great addition to any employer’s well-being program and is available digitally, telephonically or on-site. Program costs are integrated with existing well-being programs on a per employee per month basis or can be set up based on an hourly or per case fee.
Statistics indicate the number of employees living with chronic disease will continue to grow—as will the costs to the workplace. Benefit plan changes to help control cost eventually reach their limit. To truly “bend the curve” on rising benefit costs, employers need a longer-term plan, focused on prevention. Investments in employee health will pay off for employers with reduced absenteeism and benefit costs, and increased engagement and productivity. As the saying goes, “take care of your people, and they will take care of your business.”
If you’re interested in adding health coaching to your employee well-being program, be sure to speak with your benefits consultant about our exciting new wellness offering—CowanHealth.
Submitted by Lianne Clarke, Senior Consultant, Health, Disability & Wellness, Cowan Insurance Group