This week's Insider News includes insights into wellness programs and what make them successful, the use of fitness trackers in predicting disease outbreaks, a study on low-income adults' struggle with medical bills, and a unique hospital-college collaboration that might be the future of student health care.
Employee wellness programs can reduce health costs and provide health benefits for employees, but to be successful employers must fully commit to and embrace them, said Ron Loeppke of U.S. Preventive Medicine. Key elements of successful programs include effective communication and implementation, incentives, and including employees when determining program goals and objectives, Loeppke said.
A study found that heart rate and sleep data from wearable fitness trackers can predict and alert public health officials to real-time outbreaks of flu more accurately than current surveillance methods. Results of the study show by using Fitbit data, state-wide predictions of flu outbreaks were improved and accelerated. A public health expert says the study suggests fitness trackers could possibly be used as a disease surveillance tool.
A report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NPR and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health explores the hardships faced by Americans in affording basic human needs: food, clothing, housing, transportation, medications, and the items mandated for persons to achieve health and behavioral health wellness. Key survey results include:
- Seven in 10 Americans across all income categories believe having a higher income allows people to get better health care.
- 57% of low-income adults and 48% of middle-income adults report severe challenges in their ability to pay medical bills, compared to 8% of adults in the top income tier.
- Over 35% of lower-income adults and 22% of middle-income adults report serious problems finding an affordable place to live.
- 24% of low-income adults and 19% of middle-income adults struggle with rent or housing payments.
- 30% of low-income adults and 13% of middle-income adults face "serious problems" paying for food.
In the first program of its kind in Massachusetts, Wellesley College and Newton-Wellesley Hospital (NWH) are collaborating to provide health services that meet the unique needs of college students.
Students will have access to acute care, medication, diagnostic testing and preventative health care, along with sports medicine services and specialist/emergency services when needed.
NWH's Dr. Jennifer Schwartz hopes that the program will empower students to make more informed health care decisions, saying, "A lot of students just don’t understand the health care system and are hesitant to reach out because of that, so what we hope to do is just educate them about health care in the real world." By providing better access to health care services, Schwartz and other contributors believe students will perform better in class and have a greater focus on their education.
The new health center is already seeing patients, and could set a precedent for other colleges looking to support their students' care needs.