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Adopting healthy behaviours can prevent chronic disease

Adopting healthy behaviours can prevent chronic disease (iStock)

Chronic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, are a detriment to personal health and health costs. By adopting healthy behaviours and taking out a health insurance plan, the prevalence of chronic disease will be reduced, subsequently bringing these costs down – according to experts.

Speaking at the ‘Building Healthier Communities’ forum – held by USA Today and healthcare organisation Cigna – panelists announced that as the nation faces an ageing population, cost-control measures in the healthcare industry are crucial.

Katherine Hempstead, director of the insurance coverage team at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), said: “There are so many determinants of health, but one of the really important ones is that everybody has access to healthcare, and in this country having health insurance is really the major avenue to having that access.”

A study conducted by Cigna that looked at 200,000 customers in employer-sponsored plans between 2012 and 2014 found that those with chronic conditions brought on by obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, had much higher healthcare costs than those without such conditions.

The research highlighted the fact that by enrolling in health programs designed to control chronic disease, financial burdens can be alleviated and health improved.

In another study carried out by researchers at the RWJF, it was revealed that 73 per cent of 831 respondents believed health insurance to be very important, while 23 per cent deemed it somewhat important.

Ms Hempstead pointed out that since 2013, almost nine million Americans have taken out a health insurance plan. However, there are still many states – such as Texas – that have no healthcare cover in place.

While taking out insurance is helpful in controlling chronic disease, Jose Pagan – director of the New York Academy of Medicine’s Center for Health Innovation – added that this is just one solution. “It’s also about behavioural change,” he commented. “It’s about using the resources of the community effectively to improve health.”

Mr Pagan said that this is especially important for employers and health-oriented organisations. He used the YMCA’s diabetes program as a good example – a scheme that rolls out long-term lifestyle coaching, involving increasing exercise, eating healthier and losing weight, to help ward off the health condition.

Another example of where programs are being used to promote healthy behaviours is the dacadoo app. This works to track exercise, nutrition, stress, sleep, body values and mental wellbeing to generate a unique Health Score – a real-time indicator of your health and wellbeing.

The app is great for employers, since it can measure the health and wellbeing of a workforce, in turn leading to increased levels of staff engagement and productivity.

Mr Pagan concluded the forum by stating preventing chronic disease is “a way of taking a dollar and making it last longer when it comes to improving health”.

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