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Employers as Agents of Change to Make America Healthier

By Shannon Haffey, Director of Value-Based Benefit and Reimbursement, American Medical Association

For many Americans, adopting a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge, especially when results are not immediate. Unfortunately, the cumulative effects of an unhealthy lifestyle can often result in a chronic disease, which can be hard to reverse.

One of the best ways to combat chronic disease is to prevent it. Many chronic conditions show early warning signs that if caught, can be reversed.

Take type 2 diabetes as an example. Today, 29 million Americans are affected by type 2 diabetes[1]. It can be controlled but it is often a difficult road. Another 86 million American adults have prediabetes[2], indicating their risk. Research has shown that lifestyle change incorporating moderate exercise and nutrition under the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP) has been shown to reduce the progression to type 2 diabetes by 58 percent[3].

In Michigan, approximately 1.3 million metro Detroiters walk around with prediabetes. That is one in three of your employees, only 8.2 percent are aware of their risk[4].

The American Medical Association (AMA) is working with physicians and care teams to refer to the National Diabetes Prevention. Our goal is to reach more than 30 percent of the primary care physicians in Michigan in 2016.

We know that employers are key stakeholders and invest in the health of their workforces.

What Employers Can Do  

We need your help to spread evidence-based prevention. After several Detroit Regional Chamber meetings, we know many local employers are committed to the health of their workforce. Employers can be a great resource for employees:

  • Ask leadership to take the risk test
  • Raise awareness by including prediabetes in annual screenings
  • Encourage employees to visit their doctor to map out a prevention plan, which could include the National DPP

An employer has the ability to link health assessments and screenings (that you likely already provide) to an evidence-based program that can actually both improve health and demonstrate medical cost savings by avoiding downstream chronic condition management and adverse events.

Benefits of Taking Action

Providing the National DPP can:

Because of the evidence and potential cost savings, several employers are now offering the National DPP. A growing number of commercial health plans are including it as a medical benefit and Medicare is pursuing coverage. We see evidence that individuals are more likely to enroll when their physician recommends the program. We want to encourage employers to collaborate with health systems to support the program.

By ensuring that employees know their risk and the steps they can take to achieve wellbeing, employers can be agents of change regarding the health of their workforce.

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[1] American Diabetes Association.  “Statistics about diabetes”.  May 2015.

[2] American Diabetes Association.  “Statistics about diabetes”.  May 2015.

[3] Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group. Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. The New England Journal of Medicine (2002); 346.6:393

[4] Michigan Department of Community Health, 2016 and