How To Create Workplace Health & Wellness Strategies For Effective Leadership

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Written in collaboration with Dr. Stella Muloongo

In light of the recent outbreak of a coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China, now officially known as COVID-19, we’ve collaborated with Stella Muloongo, a medical doctor who graduated from Fudan University in Shanghai, China to share insights on how medical pandemics can be innovatively managed through effective workplace wellness strategies. With medical experience spanning various countries, Stella has spent most of her time in China, mainly at Zhongshan Hospital and Huashan Hospital, in addition to rotations in Sydney, Auckland and Johannesburg.

The Situation

The novel coronavirus is a new health challenge for our time. As a physician, Dr Muloongo understands the price paid on the frontlines of the healthcare battlefield. Former colleagues at the epicentre of COVID-19 in Wuhan and many more in her former city, Shanghai are fighting so that those infected with COVID-19 have the best chance of recovery. While there are still deaths on both sides and reports flood in about the spread of the virus across EMEA and the USA, there is hope in recent news of the decrease in new cases within Asia and increased patient recoveries starting to outpace new cases.

Lessons have been learnt from COVID-19’s genetic cousins SARS and MERS, and in such crises, we’ve learnt that decisive action early on is our best defence. As we continue to learn from each case of medical pandemics, steps in containment and treatment usually require great sacrifice and a unified front from the scientific community, governments and the general population.

The Background

There are hundreds of coronaviruses but only seven are known to cause humans illness, of which only three have been known to cause serious harm; SARS (2002), MERS (2012) and now COVID-19 (2019). Our history of fighting these strains of the virus has generated mass amounts of data and resources. However, due to the infrequent nature of these threats, frontline healthcare workers usually have to sift through outdated materials, learning as they go, changing and adapting to on-the-spot information as each strain’s unique identifiers are discovered and eventually treated. Despite knowing the importance of sharing information freely amongst the world’s health communities, statistics, successes and failures are manipulated on the global publicity stage to better reflect a country’s response, approach and effectiveness.

The Future

So how useful is a country’s public response in creating the necessary results in public health, primary care and preventive education? What kind of workplace wellness strategies can support governmental efforts in containing the spread of a virus? How can public service announcements effectively help combat the fear that an outbreak causes?

Dr Muloongo believes the answers at the core of all these questions lies in science, technology and the digital transformation of the healthcare system; in actionable knowledge and education that are made accessible to all. She asks, “can technology, care-based approaches and preventive measures be combined to form a healthcare system of the future so that the news is no longer the source of our healthcare education in a crisis?”

New problems require new solutions, and amid the current COVID-19 outbreak we reflect on the world’s response to the most recent fight for the healthcare of tomorrow.

What has worked well in China

  • Insurers have created mini-sites on COVID-19 for their policyholders, with links to information and appropriate healthcare facilities to contact for health checks.
  • Corporate businesses are investing in telemedicine providers, generating the largest-scale adoption and integration of telemedicine technology since its inception. This is particularly prevalent in the healthcare industry, an industry renowned for being overly traditional, process-heavy and slow to digitally transform. Newly-built hospitals in Wuhan, like Huoshenshan Mountain Hospital (note of which was constructed in only ten days), telemedicine is playing a major part in patient monitoring in isolation wards, as in other Wuhan hospitals, progressing China rapidly towards a value-based healthcare system.
  • The government used popular social media platforms AliPay and WeChat with a green, yellow and red traffic-light system on people’s mobile phones helping officials determine if the user should be allowed past guards at checkpoints.

What has worked well in Singapore

  • Singapore’s Ministry Of Health website has the most up-to-date, concise and relevant information available to the population on COVID-19. The real-time, accurate resources and intuitive site design has even garnered praise from the WHO. Publishing geographic clusters where increased numbers of infections occur, and baseline details on confirmed cases, this educational tool allows the general public to avoid higher risk areas around the island and encourages the sharing of information on affected cases of COVID-19. By empowering the average person and dispelling fears of the medical situation, the population responds effectively, containing and reducing infection. What is happening in Singapore is an example of value-based preventive healthcare in action.
  • DBS, Singapore’s largest bank is offering all their customers and their immediate family complimentary COVID-19 relief insurance coverage to further cushion affected patients’ expenses. The COVID-19 Hospital Cash policy is a 30-day free coverage that provides a daily cash benefit for hospital confinement and a lump sum payout for ICU confinement in relation to the virus. It also provides worldwide coverage for policyholders who must travel during this period.
  • In order to uncover COVID-19 infections that may have otherwise evaded detection, Singapore’s health authorities decided early on to test all influenza-like and pneumonia cases, implementing a rigorous detection and quarantine schedule free of charge for all its citizens. The government also offers SGD100 per day for self-employed citizens in quarantine, and prevents corporate employers from subtracting quarantine days from an employees holiday leave. Singapore still maintains zero deaths from COVID-19, despite being the first country with the second most infections outside of China in the initial stages of the outbreak.

What has worked well across Asia

  • Several new medical training courses on COVID-19, such as a recent one by MDBriefcase, are now available for medical professionals. These courses are a good start for basic knowledge on the virus itself and sharing of new treatment information including new medications and vaccinations as and when they become available.
  • By February 1st, aggressive travel restrictions early on in countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore contravened WHO’s initial insistence that travel bans were not necessary. The precautions came at a significant economic cost to these international hubs, which all rely on mainland China as their biggest trading partner and source of tourists. Looking retrospectively just 6 weeks later these countries’ low reported cases prove that decisive action early on wins.
  • Following SARS in 2003, Taiwan established a central command center for epidemics. By Jan. 20, it was coordinating the government’s response to the coronavirus. It quickly compiled a list of 124 “action items,” including border controls, school and work policies, public communication plans and resource assessments of hospitals, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Taiwan, just 81 miles from mainland China, was expected to have among the highest number of imported cases, but it has now tallied just 50 cases—fewer than Slovenia.

Lessons from the healthcare industry

  • Further improvements have been made in the field regarding nosocomial mismanagement, addressing the large scale infection of healthcare workers, although there is still a way to go.
  • Measures have been taken to change the way COVID-19 is diagnosed including the necessary time gap required before positive results are given. Improvements in clinical diagnostic criteria has led to better management of patients with pneumonia symptoms and are treated as potential COVID-19 cases until cleared.
  • Public health is about collaboration; only in unity can things progress forward. Public health efforts in China meant the sharing of COVID-19’s DNA structure with the world allowing rapid research into medications, vaccines and the creation of test kits.
  • Continued development of medical and public health courses including the latest data and research to support current treatment protocols, quickest diagnostic methods and the most effective vaccinations and medications to prescribe, creating a dynamic learning environment.

Implications for businesses

A recent executive study by McKinsey & Company “COVID-19: Implications for business” (authored by Matt Craven, Linda Liu, Mihir Mysore, and Matt Wilson) looks at the growing impact of COVID-19 on the global economy. Providing business leaders with a perspective on the evolving situation and implications for their companies, Table 1 outlines three possible economic situations.

Protecting your employees

Looking specifically at a short-term contingency plan to manage an outbreak like COVID-19, senior business leaders should look to:

  • Follow the most stringent guidelines from leading global healthcare organisations such as WHO, CDC and local health authorities.
  • Communicate frequently with your employees and through the right channels, making sure employees that are affected directly receive more targeted support.
  • Benchmark your efforts with others in your industry for example; limiting non-essential travel, ensuring a work from home rotation schedule to reduce the number of employees at one site.
  • Support your CEO with setting up a cross-functional response team of senior leaders that guarantees decisive action and a stable line of communication to reduce workforce anxiety.
  • Consider scenarios of 30, 90, 180 and 365 days and model out workforce management plans.

Develop a 4E’s workplace wellness strategy

Once short-term business continuity planning is complete, next look at a more robust workplace wellness strategy that can weather all manner of workforce crises:

Evaluate

– Evaluate your current situation including previously run employee programs, employee net promoter scores, budgets, current initiatives and leadership buy-in. Look at the current employee handbook on flexible and remote working practices, on-site protocols and office-based policies. Ideally, interview a range of employees and ask the tough questions about how they feel about their current work environment and working options.

Employ

– Whether this be investing in a new technology, the creation of a wellness committee, setting up a mini-site in the employees’ portal or the identification of wellness champions, look to create a culture of wellness through each and every employee. New digital platforms offer value to all staff, and encourage the use of innovation to find workarounds that may create longer-term efficiencies in the way the company runs. Be sure to align everyone’s vision on what a healthy workplace looks like, and correlate that with the data you’ve collected in your evaluation stage.

Engage

– The key to engaging employees is consistency; whether that be in frequency and tone of communications, resources provided, new technologies you invest in or who you target first, creating sustained behavioural change stems from healthy habits from the core of your wellness strategy. Remember that one size doesn’t fit all and a culture of mass personalisation will ensure your workforce feel the company has provided a range of solutions that suit them.

Expand

– After the first 30, 60, 90 and 180 days, evaluate, adjust and start to expand across the organisation. This could be to regional offices that weren’t previously included, or centralised global headquarters. The importance of this stage is to ensure lessons have been learnt from previous situations and the company is better prepared for what might come next by rolling out the strategy into every area of the company culture. This means collaboration from all departments to ensure everyone is pulling together for success.

In Conclusion

The modern challenges that HR business leaders face provide a volatile, unpredictable new work environment that needs to be expertly navigated to ensure human capital strategies support public health and local government efforts. The global workforce needs to be given flexible, practical and relevant measures to follow to maintain corporate productivity while also protecting employees’ health and wellbeing. If you want more information or would like to talk to one of our consultants you can contact us here.

References

– Current studies on key risk factors of COVID-19: Coronavirus: Largest study suggests elderly and sick are most at risk. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51540981

– MOH Singapore COVID-19: https://www.moh.gov.sg/covid-19 (Current updates) https://www.moh.gov.sg/covid-19/past-updates (Past updates)

– ARV use treating COVID-19: https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-01-26/Beijing-confirms-use-of-anti-HIV-drugs-to-treat-novel-coronavirus-NyWfDcmeZi/index.html

– https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/06/health/coronavirus-treatments.html

– Cured COVID-19 patient plasma for treating severe cases of COVID19: Coronavirus Outbreak: Plasma from recovered patients used as treatment https://news.cgtn.com/news/77416a4e354d4464776c6d636a4e6e62684a4856/index.html

– https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/coronavirus-china-asks-recovered-patients-to-donate-blood-for-plasma-treatment

– Previously used for H1N5 (swine flu) &H1N1 (bird flu) as well as in SARS https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15616839

– MDbriefcase COVID-19 course: https://www.mdbriefcase.net/resources/coronavirus/content/index.html#/

– https://www.mdbriefcase.com/course/a-canadian-healthcare-providers-guide-to-the-novel-coron

– https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/coronaviruses

– https://time.com/5802293/coronavirus-covid19-singapore-hong-kong-taiwan/

– https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/20200312-sitrep-52-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=e2bfc9c0_2 facts true as of 12 March 2020

– https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/risk/our-insights/covid-19-implications-for-business

– https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html

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Is Your Workplace Well?

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Written by Victoria Gilbert, Associate Director, Workplace Advisory Corporate Solutions Asia, Colliers International

Wellness is becoming a strategic priority for companies across the globe. Over the past few years in there has been a significant uptake and rapid growth of wellness building projects in Asia Pacific – which looks set to continue.

Business leaders have identified the ‘war for talent’ as their number one challenge in the region. Millennials – set to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 – are more focused on their own well-being, changing expectations of the ‘employee experience’. And, research shows that shows failing to take wellness into consideration has serious consequences for productivity and the bottom line. 

It is therefore vital for companies to consider how they can embed wellness into the built environment, develop effective organisational policies, and positively influence employee behaviour.

Industry needs to address the pain points of these companies – by developing services to improve well-being at scale, leveraging new technologies to facilitate the journey, and providing ways to measure the impacts. For many, the focus is shifting from ‘what’ wellness is and ‘why’ it’s important, and asking ‘how’ to build effective wellness programmes, and quantify the benefits to employee and corporate performance. As the wellness industry develops more tools to answer these questions, companies will be more willing to commit time and resources to implementing them.

Given that we spend 90 per cent of our time inside, especially in urban environments like Hong Kong, and that indoor air can be more polluted than outside it is essential to ensure the air we are breathing is high quality. Poor air quality, including high carbon dioxide levels, is linked to increased risk of disease and decreased productivity. Providing clean air not only has a clear health benefit but also gives a psychological edge – it’s peace of mind. Leveraging big data and apps to consistently monitor and communicate this to employees is extremely effective.

We were born to move. Some companies are addressing this through office design by creating circulation routes to ensure people are moving throughout the day. Some have fewer printers or a centralised area for bins so people are naturally compelled to walk and socialise. You’ll also find height-adjustable desks or standing desks that team members use for a break from sitting all day. All of this helps to increase movement and step count – making for healthy internal competitions! Using a digital platform or wearable can be a great driver for healthy habits across the business and a great way to see improvements over time.

Efforts to enhance wellness can encounter multiple challenges, from budget limitations to a lack of staff or management buy-in. It’s crucial for corporates to create a wellness strategy that’s core to a business and its employees, and not just an add-on. This will help practitioners narrow the gap between the growing understanding of the field of wellness and effectively engaging with industry experts to execute it.

How Do You Bring Wellness Into Your Workplace?

Here are ten top tips to improve the work environment for you and your employees.

  • Improve air quality – air pollution kills 7 million people every year.
  • Ensure you’re drinking enough water – dehydration reduces cognitive performance and energy levels by up to 20%.
  • Reduce sound distractions – exposure to unwanted sound reduces concentration by 66%.
  • Get comfortable – 85% of people in Asia suffer one or more musculoskeletal conditions annually
  • Make the most of natural light – employees seated within 10 feet of a window reported an 84% decrease in eyestrain, headaches, and blurred vision symptoms.
  • Focus on your mind and wellbeing – 25% of people report work as the number one stressor in their lives.
  • Embrace nature and green materials – adding plants to the workplace can result in a 58% reduction in depression, 44% in hostility and 37% in anxiety and fatigue.
  • Get moving – physical inactivity is the 4th highest risk factor in global mortality.
  • Be more conscious about nourishment – 1 in 5 deaths are linked to band diets globally.
  • Build a sense of community – the average human requires 6 hours of social interaction per day to maintain overall wellbeing.

To read the article in full, find out more about Colliers International Corporate Workplace Advisory Solutions or contact Victoria Gilbert click here.

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WellteQ Talks: Garmin Health

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Have you ever thought about how wearable technology can support workplace wellness initiatives? COO, Jeames Gillet speaks to our preferred wearable partner Garmin, on the components and benefits of the WellteQ mobile platform and the critical role Garmin Health plays in the delivery of this invaluable service.

To discuss how our digital wellness solution combined with Garmin Health can benefit your workforce, contact the WellteQ team.

To find out more about Garmin Health click here.

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How Healthtech Can Support UN’s Sustainable Development Goal #3

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Written by Natalie L. The Daily Escape

Good health and well-being – the United Nation’s 3rd sustainable development goal (SDG) – is a crucial consideration for future generations but as a goal, it isn’t one that’s so easily attained. With ambitious targets of increasing life expectancy and decreasing maternal/ infant death rates universally, this SDG was previously thought of as a near-impossible feat to achieve. However, with recent technological developments—especially within the area of healthtech, this goal has become less far-fetched and perhaps even attainable in the not-so-distant future.

Healthtech, also known as digital health, aims to simplify and improve various healthcare processes. Modern examples of healthtech in action include electronic patient databases, fitness gadgets and mobile health applications, all of which make tracking health records more streamline. In the pursuit of UN’s 3rd SDG, here are 3 key areas of healthcare which healthtech promises to revolutionize. 

Communicable Diseases

Remember the SARs outbreak in 2003? Or the swine flu in 2009? Or even the recent Ebola epidemic? These are some major examples of outbreaks of communicable, or infectious, diseases. In preventing these outbreaks, early identification and containment are key, and thermal cameras are the epitome of how healthtech comes in handy.

Thermal cameras are probably familiar to those who travel often. These cameras make use of infrared rays to screen travellers for fever symptoms, flagging those who carry signs of infection. Recently, minuscule thermal cameras have also been incorporated into smartphone covers. They send information as “heat waves” to mobile applications, which then translate the information into body temperatures. Such technology makes screening for communicable diseases much less obtrusive and more streamlined.

Non-communicable Diseases

In recent years, diabetes, hypertension and many other non-communicable diseases have taken over infectious diseases as the major causes of death in both the developing and developed countries. To combat this, WellteQ has rolled out fitness-tracking devices, wearables and applications to promote health-conscious behaviours in the public, especially office workers. Some of WellteQ’s current efforts include early screening, health education and health-promoting programmes at workplaces. With a humble background but rapidly-expanding venture, WellteQ has paved the way for digital health innovation to tackle metabolic and other non-communicable diseases.

Mental Health

It’s not surprising to hear how more and more employees can reporting higher levels of stress and lower levels of life satisfaction. As the workplace becomes a more competitive environment, many feel the pressure to “up their game” or risk obsolescence. The accumulative effect of this, as well as the weight of other personal commitments, can have a negative impact on sleep and restfulness, both of which have been shown to be key mechanisms in mental conditions such as depression and anxiety. Healthtech monitoring can serve as a powerful “first strike”  when it comes to addressing such issues. Features such as sleep tracking and mindfulness reminders are small but effective means of assisting an individual with identifying and remedying symptoms as they emerge.

Healthcare Records

This millennium, the development of electronic patient records is probably the best gift to doctors, nurses, allied healthcare professionals and most importantly, patients. The streamlining of the patient’s medical records enables healthcare professionals to better understand their patients’ past medical history. In turn, this empowers them to make the most appropriate treatment decisions for patients. This is just one way in which digital health has revolutionised a key process in healthcare delivery; we expect to see even more game-changing healthtech innovations in time to come.

How Healthtech Enlivens The Workplace

With regard to the UN’s SDG #3, successful integration of healthtech can make monitoring health and physical activity a much more streamlined and convenient for both employers and employees. Incentives can be tied to certain milestones as a means of motivation which can translate into tangible benefits for the company; healthy workers are efficient workers after all.

Taking a look at the bigger picture, such technology can also be used to fuel community-minded pursuits. Charity events and other CSR-related projects thrive on connectivity, and healthtech bridges the gap between workforces that are otherwise separated by geographical constraints. By elevating the level of social involvement, workers feel empowered to be more invested in their work. This can also translate into a greater sense of unity, turning what is otherwise a bland and faceless company into a family of sorts.

Healthtech is powerful: it holds great potential to induce significant growth in the healthcare industry through the incorporation of various emerging technologies and platforms, bringing us much closer to attaining UN’s 3rd SDG of good health and well-being. The possibilities with healthtech are endless and the impact, boundless. Who can say what else lies beyond the horizon?

References:
– https://healthinformatics.uic.edu/blog/the-role-of-health-tech-in-stopping-the-spread-of-epidemics/
– https://www.galengrowth.asia/2016/07/13/the-power-of-healthtech-singapore-in-one-view/
– https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/health/

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WellteQ Talks: Mental Health with Medibio

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Have you ever thought about how technology might be able to help us with our mental wellbeing? Jennifer Solitario from Medibio discusses with Scott Montgomery in this new episode of WellteQ Talks.

To discuss how our digital wellness solution can benefit your workforce, contact the WellteQ team.

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5 Ways To Reduce Your Dementia Risk

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Here are some top tips written by our neuroscientist partner Savonix, experts in cognitive performance and creators of a mobile neurocognitive assessment and brain health platform.

There are many factors that determine whether or not you will experience severe cognitive decline. Dementia is a complex set of diseases not completely understood by physicians and scientists. Risk factors are variables that contribute to your likelihood of getting a disease. For example, smoking cigarettes is a well-known risk factor for lung cancer. If you quit smoking, you reduce your risk of developing this cancer. Because the human body is extremely complicated, there are lots of different risk factors that come from your genetics, your environment, and your behaviours.

It is estimated that nearly 500,000 new cases of Alzheimer’s disease will be diagnosed this year in the United States. Every 3 seconds, someone in the world develops dementia.

While it may not be possible to reduce your risk to zero, by taking steps to improve and maintain your brain health, you can significantly lower your likelihood of developing dementia. Lowering your risk can either slow the progression of cognitive decline or help stave it off completely.

1. Lower Your High Blood Pressure

Your cardiovascular system is responsible for pumping blood (and with it, nutrients like oxygen and glucose) to all regions of your body.  Your brain relies heavily on your cardiovascular system for the nutrients it needs to function. Despite making up only 2% of your body weight, your brain requires 20% of your daily consumption of oxygen and calories. (1) Because of this close relationship, when your cardiovascular health declines so do your brain health.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, damages and weakens the walls of your arteries and veins. These weakened blood vessels are less efficient at circulating blood and are more likely to narrow, rupture, or leak. As fewer nutrients are able to reach your brain because of the reduced blood supply, brain cells can begin to deteriorate and die. (2)

Therefore, it is important to reduce high blood pressure until it falls until a healthy range, between 120 over 80 and 140 over 90 mmHg. There are several ways to alleviate hypertension both lifestyle-related and pharmaceutical. It is important to consult your physician to decide what regime is best for your health. Regular aerobic exercise like walking, jogging, or swimming for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 to 7 days a week, helps to regulate blood pressure levels. Additionally, stress can be a significant contributor to hypertension. If possible, develop strategies to either avoid stress or to manage it appropriately. (3)

2. Avoid Excessively Loud Noises to Protect Your Hearing

Hearing loss has a strong link to dementia. Mild hearing loss doubles your risk of dementia, and severe hearing loss increases your risk of dementia by 5 times. (4) As you age, pay attention to whether your hearing is worse than it used to be. Around one-third of people over the age of 65 have hearing problems. (5) Hearing loss can be caused by age, repeated exposure to loud noises (e.g. loud, sustained music at full volume), blockages in the ear (e.g. a buildup of ear wax), injury, or a combination of these factors.

When your hearing starts to decline, your brain has to work harder to interpret the muffled sounds. By diverting more energy to listening, your brain spends less energy-storing information into memory. People with hearing loss may also start to avoid social interactions due to the frustrations that come with the extra effort needed to have a conversation. (4)

Hearing aids can reduce the risk of dementia associated with hearing loss. (6) However, they are only helpful once your hearing has started to go. In the meantime, it is vital to protect your hearing. Follow manufacturer advice when it comes to Q-tips: don’t put them in your ear. Rather than help clean out ear wax, cotton swabs often push it further into the ear. Their use can lead to tears in the eardrum as well as excessive ear wax buildup which can cause hearing loss. (7) Additionally, avoid sustained exposure to loud noises, such as standing next to a speaker at a concert or listening to music full-blast with headphones. This cannot be emphasized enough. About half of impaired hearing cases in America are due to damage from exposure to loud noise. (8)

3. Quit Smoking

There are many reasons to quit smoking, and here’s one more: smoking increases your risk for dementia. A report from the World Health Organization estimates that smokers are 45% more likely to develop dementia compared to those who don’t smoke. (9)

Smoking negatively impacts your cardiovascular system. Consistent smoking narrows blood vessels in the heart and brain that increase your chances of strokes. Additionally, the toxins in cigarettes have been linked with harmful inflammation of brain cells. (9) Both of these factors contribute to cognitive decline.

It is never too late to quit. The sooner you stop smoking, the lower your risk for developing dementia. In fact, quitting smoking may even lower your risk of dementia down to the level of nonsmokers. (10) For both your loved ones’ health and your own, it is important to emphasize quitting smoking. Secondhand smoke increases the likelihood of developing dementia. Even if you have never smoked, living with a smoker increases your risk of cognitive decline by as much as 29%. (11)

4. Eat a Mediterranean Diet

Food can be a form of medicine. It gives us the energy and minerals we need to do our best throughout the day. The Mediterranean Diet has received a lot of attention from the medical community due to its positive impact on brain health. One study concluded that older adults who followed the Mediterranean diet had a 30-35% lower risk of memory impairment. (12)

The Mediterranean diet is mostly plant-based, with a focus on limiting saturated fat. This diet suggests a high intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, and unsaturated fatty acids such as olive oil and avocado. It also encourages a moderate intake of dairy, wine, and poultry, with a low intake of red meats and sweets.

Due to its high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, this diet fights against the harmful oxidative processes that occur within the ageing brain. Oxidative damage is common in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The main components of the Mediterranean diet (fruits, vegetables, wine, olive oil) provide high levels of antioxidants that slow and even prevent this damage. (13)

5. Treat Your Depression

Depression and dementia have an interesting relationship. The two disorders have several symptoms that overlap: social withdrawal, apathy, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, impaired thinking, and problems with concentration.

A history of depression doubles the risk of dementia. (14) In addition to a history of dementia, the age of onset of depression influences dementia risk. Depression in midlife increases the risk of dementia by 19%, and depression in late life increases the risk by 72%. (15) People with depression who later developed Alzheimer’s disease were more likely to have motivational symptoms of depression than mood symptoms. (14) Motivational symptoms refer to the loss of interest in hobbies, impaired concentration, and lack of energy.

Therefore, seek treatment for depression. Continued long-term use of antidepressant treatment reduces the risk of dementia by 17%. (16) One study found that long-term use of the antidepressant class SSRIs delayed the onset of dementia by three years, providing precious years of cognitive health. (17) Furthermore, depressive symptoms tend to worsen in the decade prior to a dementia diagnosis. (18)  This means that it’s important to monitor both your cognitive health and your mental health over time.

Hispanic woman crying

For a full list of the references, you can view the original article here on Savonix’s website.

Who Is Savonix?

Savonix delivers a fully mobile assessment of cognitive function available on Android and iOS for phone and tablet. Savonix Mobile is an accurate, accessible and affordable tool for professional cognitive screening. It empowers healthcare providers, payers and researchers to evaluate and leverage results to improve health and treatment outcomes.

Led by clinical neuro-psychologists, neuroscientists and IT leaders, Savonix sets the global standard on cognition and its relationship to risk, health outcomes and the development of innovative therapies. Savonix evidence-based tests are digitally validated versions of the gold standard cognition tests, many of which neuropsychologists have used effectively since the 1930s.

Savonix believes cognition is the fifth vital sign. We provide our customers with the data and the insight to improve outcomes and drive innovation.

To learn more about the WellteQ/Savonix partnership you can read the press release here.

To discuss how our digital wellness solution can benefit your workforce, contact the WellteQ team.

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EAP: The Baby Boomer Of Corporate Wellness

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The strategy behind WellteQ’s mental health partnerships

Over the last few months WellteQ have orchestrated two new partners – Medibio and Lysn. But why and what does this mean for the user and our clients?  Is it a ‘me too’ capability or is it something different in the industry?

These are questions worth answering and to do so I want to share insight into the thinking behind our strategy. Our partnerships are the basis for what we will be building towards in the years ahead. Through introducing our improved system of personalised health management, we will provide what has historically been an unrealised value from EAP and corporate wellness programs.

In essence, the partners extend value to a WellteQ user in two ways;

  1. Objective mental health screening 
  2. 1:1 tele-psychology consultations.

Independently these are very powerful capabilities, and when added to our digital health platform, introduce a long overdue innovation to bring proactive risk-based interventions to health coaching.

Who Really Needs It?

Meet 46-year-old Dave. A father of two pre-teenage children who has been a loyal mid-level manager for the last twelve years at the same company. He’s guilty of some middle-aged spread (who isn’t?), he drinks but has three alcohol-free days per week, and his new year’s resolution of running around the block three times a week died over winter, again. Dave is also more stressed at work this year, in fact over the last few years found he’s not sleeping as well as he used to. School fees are not getting cheaper and neither are family holidays, Dave’s boss, unfortunately, has had to hold off the promotion again and his wife wants him to upgrade the bathroom. 

  • Is Dave stressed? Certainly. 
  • Does Dave have a mental illness? Unlikely, but unsure. 
  • Could Dave be helped with knowing a bit more about his mental health? Absolutely. 

Dave’s story isn’t unique to just Dave. He could be 26 or 56 years old. Dave could be a Melissa or Tony, May or Tom. He could be any one of us. Dave could be you.

Like most of us in today’s hectic world, Dave’s problem is not singular and there are a few factors at play. No one problem is urgent enough to do anything about immediately, but collectively they build up and over a period of time, Dave moves past quick fixes and easy solves that require days and weeks, and moves into needing ongoing help and support that can last for months and years.

Health today is not just about a run around the block and saying ‘no’ to the second helping of dessert. Mental health challenges, and most notably, the lack of fundamental education or regular screening, are central to some of the fastest rises in medical costs, accidents and comorbidities. The prevalence of mental illness is sky-rocketing and we’re not sure how to get ahead of it. 

“Mental health challenges, and most notably, the lack of fundamental education or regular screening, are central to some of the fastest rises in medical costs, accidents and comorbidities.”

The OECD cites “mental disorders account for one of the largest and fastest growing categories of the burden of disease worldwide.. with one in every two people experiencing a mental illness in their lifetime”. Statistics from workplace mental health studies are consistent with the global trends, and a recent study evaluating global case data over 3 years uncovered that combined, employee depression, stress and anxiety accounted for 82.6% of all emotional health cases.


The facts are clearly there, and when multi-billion dollar life insurers are trying to get ahead of the problem it’s time to take notice. Munich Re shares “Mental disorders have not only become the second most common cause of sick leave– they are now also the most common cause of early retirement due to illness” Historically, mental health disorders have been a relatively difficult set of illnesses to detect, assess and treat. The increasing burden is not just felt by healthcare budgets, and insurers and employers who are bearing the brunt of escalating costs look for new solutions on how to better deal with this global critical situation.

The Problem Is Growing, But What Resources Do Employers Have?

For decades employers have had access to a solution called Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). EAP stems from the 1930’s where it was originally introduced to assist people with the effects of too much drinking on the job. True story. It has, of course, evolved significantly to what it is today; a stand-alone service where employees have access to psychological counselling to help deal with both work and out-of-work demands. It’s a powerful solution for certain use cases, but as with any deep expertise, it has its limitations in broader usage.

In the current EAP model, the onus is on the individual to seek a counsellor of their own volition or wait for a critical incident response. There’s little to no individual risk profiling or personalised recommendations, leaving the individual to self-assess and evaluate what they might need and when they might need it. There is little proactivity and when a user does try to seek help, the experience is often difficult to navigate and time-consuming, utilisation rates are low and companies investing in EAP are increasingly unsatisfied.

For the HR department, organisational reporting is commonly static, retrospective and extremely light on valuable insights other than month-to-month utilization figures. Employee surveys frequently highlight difficulties in navigating EAP portals, confusion in asking permission when booking sessions and general reluctance to share confidential personal information. 

Let’s revisit Dave’s case again. 

Dave’s company offers EAP. He’s seen posters and heard that there’s a number he can call but not looked any further because he’s got more important work to do, and besides after quick self-evaluation, he’s not depressed, he’s just a bit overworked. Dave decides to soldier on until his next holiday in a few months. And so the pattern continues. Dave’s HR department keep EAP because it has been offered to staff since long before current management was there, and even though utilisation of EAP globally is between 2-4% on average, no one gets fired for buying IBM. Why rock the boat? 

” The World Health Organisation recognises mental health as a major concern estimating depression and anxiety alone to cost the global economy over US $1 Trillion per year in lost productivity.”

But a shift is happening, and thankfully with rapid developments in technology, today’s capabilities are fast improving. Mental health is becoming a boardroom topic with consistent media coverage in many countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognise mental health as a major concern, identifying the workplace as a ripe opportunity for mitigation. WHO established the Mental Health Action Plan (2013-2030) outlining relevant principles, objectives and implementation strategies to promote good mental health in the workplace. They calculate depression and anxiety alone to cost the global economy over US $1 Trillion per year in lost productivity. Let that sink in $1 Trillion, that’s about enough to buy Apple – the most valuable company on earth.

Encouragingly, attitudes towards mental wellness have turned a corner in the last few years with initiatives like Movember, Beyond Blue, RUOK and Mental Health Month. Generally, more people are open to talking and learning more about mental health, and with awareness comes support on a grander scale. In 2013, Canada established a national standard in workplace psychological wellbeing, led by Dr Joti Samra which in time will become an International Standard. Mental health, however, is not an annual event. With our busy lives absorbing new and different stresses we need something proactive, automated and convenient to stay on top of things.

The Rise Of Technology’s Role In Wellness

Technology is perpetually enhancing incumbent practices that were seen as the height of innovation at the time of their discovery. For example, Body Mass Index (BMI), invented as a best available weight indication of its time in the 1970s has now been superseded by better science and new technology to provide more accurate outcomes. EAP has a similar story, existing long before IoT, mobile living and digital interconnectedness. But just as body measurements have progressed from height and weight ratios to present-day bioimpedance and AI assessments, so too must workplace wellbeing programs advance in identification and support of employee mental health challenges. 

Corporate wellness, like almost all other industries, is undergoing continued digital transformation. Until early 2000s our industry was almost exclusively offering wellness programs in-person – on-site fitness classes, face-to-face health assessments, lunchtime seminars, workplace massages; the list goes on. 

“Early trends in the digital transformation of the wellness industry tended to overcorrect on-site solutions with purely digital solutions, which also weren’t as effective as a hybrid offering.”

The trend was to then overcorrect towards more pure digital solutions – online platforms offering questionnaires and mass sharing of health articles.  While technology can certainly be more economical, dispersing information easily and scaling quickly, something was missing when it came to connecting with lowly engaged or high-risk individuals. We knew that the best results were usually derived from both personalised experiences and contact with other people, whether that be virtually or face-to-face. We’re now seeing that a hybrid approach gives the scale offered by technology combined with the outcomes offered by rapport and expert consultation.

Retrospectively, it’s not surprising a hybrid model is the best course of action. Technology is greatly superior to humans at many things, and for the wellness industry it’s the ability to calculate and automate:

  1. Speed: By analysing high volumes of health risk profiling data points, blood tests, surveys, granular wearable data etc, algorithms are able to screen people against a global databank and share recommendations personalised to each user. This processing takes a human exponentially longer than an algorithm. 
  2. Follow up: All too often life gets in the way of following up on mental wellbeing. Immediately after receiving results from a health assessment the individual usually understands the importance of taking action, but often the urgency of today’s calendar quickly de-prioritises the next steps they should take. Machine-driven intelli-nudges ensures the individual is reminded until an action has been completed, whether that’s reading an article, setting a goal, or booking an appointment. 
  3. Personalisation: The integration of face-to-face care with a skilled professional that closely matches the needs and personality of the individual ensures personalised care is given at the right time without a templated response, and is scheduled accordingly.

This hybrid approach offers a significantly stronger probability for successful intervention.

Why Are Corporate Wellness Programs So Important?

Wellness empowers people. Typically a workplace wellness program is for the persona that could and should do something about their health but never really get around to committing. If we’re honest with ourselves, this actually incorporates most of us. Wellness is often linked with incentives like rewards or prizes, gamification and challenges. It helps people overcome inertia and get back on the health bandwagon. Wellness programs are able to take serious, often confronting topics like diabetes or depression and make it digestible and more relatable. 

Typically corporate wellness solutions around the globe see an average uptake of ~ 20-40% of employees within an organisation and help prevent some problems from happening, delay others from happening sooner and reduce the impact of those problems that do happen. Where corporate wellness solutions have come up short in some eyes is that they either don’t help those in a time of need like in consultation-based treatment, or its one-size-fits-all approach, which typically only work for the already healthy people within an organisation. 

Livongo Case Study

Livongo is a chronic illness management company based in the US and have recently listed on the NASDAQ. In October 2019 they announced a contract in the US to provide their diabetes solution to 5 million eligible members covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program under one health plan. Through a carefully planned strategic partnership with innovative telemedicine provider Teladoc, Livongo is able to offer telehealth services that give users access to behavioural health, dermatology care, minor acute care and counselling for substance abuse disorders all from their mobile phone. Livongo is a unicorn twice over whose expertise is amplified by partnering with complementary capabilities. 

Wellteq’s strategy to extend functionality with expert partners is not dissimilar. 

The Partnership Equation: 1+1=11

As an exercise physiologist, my peers and I have often been described as a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. Ingrained in our training is that while in general, we are valuable for many people, it’s imperative that we refer patients for specialist areas for optimum care. This concept has been central to our partnership strategy at WellteQ. We’ve identified mental health as an area that while we introduce some material value, we know that to really make a difference, we needed to partner with experts in the respective fields. 

We’ve sought out and partnered with two very complementary companies that can help us better detect and support mental health risks in our users.

Medibio analyses responses to a combination of globally validated psychological questionnaires and correlates passively collected sleep patterns via Garmin and Fitbit wearables. The algorithm indicates risks within major pillars of mental health. The power in this is two-fold; past subjective responses are now able to be assessed objectively; data can now be passively collected for ongoing monitoring presenting opportunities to educate the user on when risk increases and decreases. Armed with these invaluable insights, intervention is automated to provide personalised support and round-the-clock care. That’s a lot more powerful than waiting for someone in an overwhelmed state to take action for themselves. 

Lysn can match a person with a psychologist based on key need and personality traits. Offering face-to-face services and virtual consultation through telephone and video conferencing users can be paired with over 500 psychologists consulting in 11 languages in most countries around the world. Having a wide-reaching network ensures users have an enriched access to appointment times and locations that suit them rather than one that suits the physician.  Virtual consultations allows the call to be taken whenever and wherever is most convenient, improving the likelihood of utilisation, and proving especially helpful for remote and mobile workforces.


WellteQ seamlessly glues it all together by offering personalised employee wellness via a smartphone. A connected health coach in your pocket integrates wearables, behaviour prompts, team and individual programs, social content, rewards and now objective mental health screening that refers to telepsychology for the complete end-to-end solution. Intelli-nudges and smart monitors ensure an individual can be alerted in real-time during peak periods of high-risk, and telepsychology enabled for smartphones allows consultation with a health professional at a time that’s convenient for you, me and Dave.

Summary

WellteQ are a digital wellness company with a specialist offering in employee mental health.  For now, our immediate focus is to quickly deploy this fundamental wellbeing offering before we extend our coaching capabilities into nutrition, exercise and sleep.

We believe the majority of healthcare (or is ‘sickcare’ a more accurate term nowadays?) spend can be prevented, or at the very least reduced by improving lifestyle habits. We’re much more likely to achieve sustained healthy behaviour change if we first address our own mental wellbeing back to, or closer to an equilibrium. 

It’s an exciting time for our industry, come and join us.

Written by Scott Montgomery, CEO and Founder of WellteQ

Learn More

Press release for Wellteq and Medibio

Press release for Wellteq and Lysn 

www.wellteq.co 

www.medibio.com.au

www.welysn.com 

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WellteQ Introduces Tele-psychology In New Partnership With Mental Health Company Lysn

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WellteQ announces a partnership with Lysn, a mental health company whose technology offers personalised mental health coaching and consultations.

Highlights

  • Lysn offers over 500 psychologists on-demand capable of 11 languages with a global reach including triage, learning modules, workshops and presentations. 
  • The combined solution offers psychology with digital wellness and objective mental health screening to offer the most comprehensive mental health and wellbeing solution for enterprises across APAC.
  • The partnership will deploy immediately as a digital innovation to the Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and offers immediate consultation capability following risk detection.

Mental health has become a primary focus of large employers and insurers recently and WellteQ has responded by extending their capabilities to include objective screening and virtual consultation through partnerships. Incorporating counselling to specifically focus on mental health has been a strategic plan, and builds on the recently launched objective mental health screening capability.

New End-to-End Solution Helps Employers Get Ahead Of Risk

EAP utilization rates have traditionally lingered at 2-4%, whereas the corporate wellness industry average surges ahead at ~25%. By adding mental health screening and psychology to digital wellness capabilities, the WellteQ end-to-end solution extends the value chain of an HR investment. Leveraging WellteQ’s personalisation engine to triage employees earlier improves the current care model and helps employers get ahead of risk. 

By integrating Lysn’s virtual and face-to-face consultation capabilities into WellteQ’s digital wellness platform, WellteQ extends the use case and continuity of care.  Its suite of digital health assessment and wellbeing tools now extend past objective health risk assessment and preventative coaching into psychological consultation. This extended value proposition now strongly contends to disrupt the current Employee Assistance Program (EAP) market by offering broader value for higher workforce utilization and data-rich insights for more strategic workforce support compared to the status quo.


What Does This Mean For Employees?

For employers this collaboration offers an end-to-end solution from prevention programs and engagement to 1:1 consultation-based care, specific to mental health in the workplace:

  • New insights into employee mental wellbeing that can help with support programs such as return-to-work and more targeted workplace wellness interventions.
  • More accurate employee profiling allowing employees to get ahead of the risk before the situation becomes more serious and costly.
  • Safe and secure digital environment for employees ensures user anonymity as only aggregated information is reported back to the employer.

Dr Jonathan King, CEO and Founder of Lysn, said:

“Such an exciting partnership to announce with WellteQ, combining workplace physical data insights with Lysn’s wellbeing software and services provide a holistic wellbeing approach for employees and their workplaces.

Collaborating with WellteQ, we’ll provide better data-driven employee assistance programs. This will not only help employees but increase the return of investment for businesses. We make a really simple and transparent process for companies to see their return on investing in wellbeing. I am very excited to see how we can transform workplace health together.”

Scott Montgomery, CEO of WellteQ, said:

“Employers for a long time have been calling out for innovation to the incumbent EAP model. Due to its siloed and reactive nature, it was attracting underwhelming utilisation by waiting for employees to activate the solution rather than the solution activating the employee.

WellteQ now with our Lysn partnership can offer proactive wellness engagement via data-driven personalisation for employees, and when needed can seamlessly triage into private 1:1 coaching or consultations. Finally, we can link risk assessments, preventative wellness and specialist consults into one smartphone app. I’m incredibly excited by this partnership and the outcomes we’ll deliver in this next 12 months alone.”


About LYSN

Lysn is a mental health company, helping anyone find high-quality and tailored matching mental health support. Whether it’s by phone, online video call, or in person, Lysn provides help the way you want.

Lysn’s digital wellbeing platform provides a stepped care model for mental health support, allowing people to be escalated or de-escalated to the point of care that they require. This customization allows users to feel supported due to the personalization that Lysn brings for each user’s experience. 

Lysn’s platform is integrated across over 80+ GP clinics, and over 250+ psychology clinics. If you are looking for a personalized wellbeing platform, please contact Lysn.

For more information please contact stacey@wellteq.co

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Why Work-Related Mental Health Could Be The Biggest Cost In Your Business

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Work-related mental health issues affect everyone in their working lives at one point or another across the globe. In Australia, 58% of women and 42% of men in Australia made serious claims on average per year amounting to approximately USD372 million.

In the UK for the first time, work-related stress anxiety or depression accounted for over half of all working days lost due to ill health, resulting in a loss of approximately USD86 billion in 2017/18.

Work-related mental health conditions are estimated to cost the global economy USD1 trillion per year.

Annual costs associated with work-related mental health conditions in the USA are increasing twice as fast as all other medical expenses in recent years, according to data from Aetna Behavioral Health, costing US businesses up to USD193.2 billion in 2018.

Work-related mental health conditions take a huge toll on worker health and productivity, with the negative impact felt by individuals themselves, their families, and colleagues. Depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is USD1 trillion per year in lost productivity.

This infographic from Safe Work Australia looks at the rate, type and causes of work-related mental health conditions in the workplace, to help us focus on how to reduce these statistics.

Work-related mental health conditions (also known as psychological injuries) have become a major concern in Australian workplaces due to the negative impact on individual employees, and the costs associated with the long periods away from work that are typical of these claims. It’s reported that 60% of mental disorder claims are awarded to workers aged 40 and over.

But the situation is likely more grave than reported, as employees frequently call in sick with colds or upset stomachs to hide the fact they may be suffering from a workplace-related psychological issue. According to MIND in the UK, 95% of employees who took time off previously for stress named a physical illness at some stage to avoid difficult conversations with supervisors and managers they felt didn’t support them.

In the US, 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress, such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed or anxious, with nearly 1 in 5 working adults reporting mental illness in 2016.

Over the five-year period reviewed by SWA in Australia, the occupations with the highest rate of claims for mental health conditions were defence, transport drivers, support workers, prison and security officers and social and welfare professionals.

In the UK, the fastest-growing rates of work-related stress, anxiety or depression by industry were education, healthcare and social workers, defence, finance and insurance, with notable increases also found in science, technology, arts and entertainment, administration and automotive.

The picture is very different in the US, with manufacturing, retail and food & beverage industries ranking worst for workplace mental health, citing stress, lack of physical exercise, the potential for conflict and feelings of irrelevance as top reasons for poor mental health.

While no two cases are the same, there are some mechanisms that when present within a work environment increases the likelihood of employees developing work-related mental health issues. In Australia between 2010-2015 91% of workers’ compensation claims involving a mental health condition were linked to stress, with the majority of cases relating directly to increase work pressure (31% on average per year).

Increased work pressure is the most reported reason in the UK with 38% of cases, followed by 17.9% reported on financial concerns and 9.5% reported on workplace bullying. More than half (55.3%) of employees interviewed said that their job had become more stressful in the last five years.

Excessive workplace stress causes on average 120,000 deaths a year in the US and results in nearly USD190 billion in health care costs each year. This represents 5% to 8% of national health care spending, derived primarily from high demands at work (USD48 billion), lack of insurance (USD40 billion), and work-family conflict (USD24 billion).

Depression, anxiety and stress-related disorders are consistently reported in Australia, UK and the USA with regards to work-related mental health conditions.

This trend is seen on a global scale, with major depression ranking second (after low back pain) worldwide of work-related reported conditions, and anxiety disorders ranking ninth. Using more inclusive criteria to embrace other conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, insomnia and major depression, it is estimated that 164.8 million people of all ages in the European Union (38.2% of the population) suffer from a form of mental disorder each year; the commonest being anxiety (14.0%), insomnia (7.0%) and major depression (6.9%).

Employers must look to address mental health in the workplace as part of their physical health check-ups, due to numerous studies proving the relationship between mental and physical conditions. Depressed persons are twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease or stroke and more than four times as likely to die within 6 months from a heart attack. There is a strong linkage between depression and obesity, where those with depression had a 58% greater risk of developing obesity than non-depressed individuals, and people with obesity had a 55% increased risk of being depressed than non-obese individuals. An added concern is that people with depression also exhibit poor adherence with medication or other prescribed treatments.

“Depressed people are up to 4 times more likely to develop physical conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and obesity.”

Research also shows that there are more workers absent from work because of stress and anxiety than because of physical illness or injury. Furthermore, more days of work loss and work impairment are caused by mental illness than other chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and arthritis. Employees with depression report their productivity at 70% of their peak performance, and approximately 32 incremental workdays are lost to presenteeism for individuals with major depressive disorders.

With such compelling research and staggering statistics, what are you doing to address these issues within your organisation?

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Women’s Health Week Special: 3 Top Tips To Treat The Top 3 Troubles

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We thought we’d take this opportunity to reflect on a couple of health concerns that women face and the benefits of making just a few healthy life choices. At the turn of the century, most of the illnesses that affected our lives were a result of infection. Modern medicine has meant we’ve conquered most of those problems in developed countries, however, our lifestyle choices play a massive impact on our health.

With the three different concerns to women’s health that are discussed here, there are modifiable (lifestyle choices) and non-modifiable risk factors that may make some women more predisposed than other women. Although there are some things we don’t have control over (non-modifiable), it’s important to feel empowered by the choices you can make which will positively influence your quality of life.

1. Heart Disease

This affects both men and women and is a major concern across most developed countries. In fact, in cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of illness and death among Australian and American women. Australian women are almost three times more likely to die from CVD than breast cancer. Although heart disease is responsible for one in every four female deaths in the United States, only 54% of women recognise it’s a concern. Risk factors that increase your risk of heart disease include a poor diet, lack of exercise, overweight and obesity, diabetes, smoking and genetics.

Visit heart foundation to understand more about the different factors linked to CVD.

2. Breast Cancer

Breast cancer, which is more common in developed countries is becoming more treatable. The biggest factor for survival is early detection! So please, check yourself for lumps, keep up to date with the recommended screens from your doctor and remind your female friends to do the same. If in your family history, someone has had breast cancer or other forms of cancer you can be more susceptible to breast cancer along with weight gain post-menopause, being overweight or obese, smoking and the consumption of alcohol and processed meats.

Click here for more information on the different risk factors.

3. Osteoporosis

This is a condition in which a person loses bone density and increases the risk of fractures. 89% of people diagnosed with osteoporosis are women. Due to the rapid decline in oestrogen during menopause, women lose bone density at an earlier age and at a faster rate than men. Your risk of osteoporosis is increased by age, alcohol, genetics, lack of exercise, low body mass, smoking and steroid use. Women are at a greater risk of osteoporosis from the age of 60, whereas men are more vulnerable once they reach 70 years of age.

What Can YOU do?

Here are just three small changes you can make on a daily basis to greatly improve your health and reduce your risk of lifestyle-related diseases.

Woman doing assisted sit-ups

1. Exercise Regularly

Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day has been proven time and time again. A World Cancer Research Fund report demonstrated that vigorous exercise (e.g. running or cycling) reduces the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by 10% compared to less active women. Another study found that walking and lifting moderate weights halved the risk of dying of breast cancer.

Exercise also helps to lower blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol levels and stress which are all contributing factors for heart disease.  A 2013 study showed a 29% reduction in coronary heart disease events in women who performed higher levels of physical activity. Regular exercise promotes anti-inflammatory responses inside the body thus taking the pressure off the cardiovascular system.

To look after bone health a combination of strength training and impact based exercise is essential. It promotes bone density growth and maintenance and prolongs the onset of osteoporosis.

2. Eat Well

We’re not asking you to throw out all your treats, give up meat or alcohol but consider what you consume and if it’s in moderation. Food is fuel and making decisions about what you put in your body has a direct effect on your health.

We have the simple 80:20 rule. Eat plenty of unprocessed food 80% of the time, and don’t beat yourself up for the other 20%. Aim for as many fresh fruits and veg as possible, steer clear of processed meats and refined carbohydrates and try to avoid sugary beverages – they are a fast way to put on weight and provide no nutritional benefit to your body.

Maintaining a healthy weight is key to avoiding heart disease and cancers. Having a healthy diet and exercising regularly is the best way to lose unnecessary kilos and maintain a healthy size. Ensure you have calcium-rich food in your diet daily and get enough vitamin D (sunshine) to ensure maximum calcium absorption. 

3. Quit Smoking

Yep. We all know cigarettes are terrible for your health. It goes far beyond lung or mouth cancer. Smoking hardens your arteries thus increasing your risk of heart disease and has been linked to higher rates of osteoporosis.

Happy’s Women’s Health Week! Although we covered some health concerns affecting women, men – you can take the advice too!

Interested to find out more? Contact the team now to book a confidential discussion about how to support your workforce with an integrated wellbeing program.

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