Guest blogger Linda K. Riddell is back with another post on the importance of incorporating employees’ socio-economic status into wellness programming. Enjoy, and share your thoughts in the comments. —KMB
Which is the most revealing number about a person’s health?
A) Height and weight
B) Number of chronic illnesses
C) Blood pressure
D) Annual salary
The answer is D, annual salary. Knowing a person’s annual salary tells you more about his health than you may realize. And unlike much other health-related data, salary information is readily available to employers and not considered “sensitive.”
But what exactly does it tell you?
Annual salary roughly equates to a person’s social-economic status, and SES is the single largest determinant of a person’s health status.
Hundreds of studies have shown that people with higher SES have better health. They live longer, have fewer disabilities and their illnesses are less severe even if they have the same bad habits (like smoking) as their lower SES peers.
Obviously, knowing a person’s salary is not the same as knowing what health problems he has. But it does tell you a lot about what resources would be helpful.
A workforce that earns $10 to $12 per hour is more likely to delay care, and thus will benefit more from disease management, which helps people to follow treatment plans. Higher earners, on the other hand, will be attracted to different health interventions. This group is much less likely to delay care, and in fact may even be over-using health care services. A highly educated group will welcome sophisticated health education resources, since they are much more comfortable discussing options with a doctor.
While every employee population will have a mix of high and low earners, the majority will fall into a fairly narrow salary range. Wellness programs, then, should aim for this majority, instead of trying to be all things to all people.
Guest blogger Linda K. Riddell is a principal at Health Economy, LLC, where she works with clients on gaining practical tools to comply with health care reform, and to maximize the new opportunities that health reform offers. She can be contacted at LRiddell@HealthEconomy.net.
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