Disease Management Update
Volume III, No. 42
February 8, 2007

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Table of Contents

  1. Chronic Pain and Presenteeism
  2. Disease Management Q&A: Gauging Wellness Success
  3. HealthSounds Podcast: Creative Wellness Program Promotional Strategies
  4. Migraines Underdiagnosed, Costing Employers
  5. Wellness and Health Promotion: Programs and Promotions Used by Health Plans and Employers

1. Chronic Pain and Presenteeism

Persistent, chronic pain has risen dramatically among full-time U.S. workers in the past 10 years, but workers today opt to go to their jobs rather than call in sick, leading to a growing trend of presenteeism — a negative impact on work despite being physically present at the job — according to a national survey conducted by Harris Interactive.

Chronic pain, defined in the survey as pain that lasts for at least six months, was more common in the workplace in 2006 than it was in 1996 (26 percent vs. 19 percent). Today, almost nine in 10 employees with chronic pain (89 percent) typically go to work rather than stay home when experiencing chronic pain, the survey found. The same percentage of employees (89 percent) reported experiencing chronic pain at work "often" or "sometimes."

About two-thirds (66 percent) of employers surveyed now offer worksite wellness programs to employees, compared to 40 percent in 1996. However, only 22 percent of wellness programs include a component about preventing or living with chronic pain conditions.

"We have seen some improvement in the recognition of pain-related illness in the workplace, and that should be commended," said Rollin Gallagher, M.D., M.P.H., director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Pain Medicine, Research and Policy. "Once employees are given the tools to better understand and manage their pain successfully, they can begin to improve many areas of their lives affected by their chronic pain."

To see more of this survey's results, please visit:

2. Disease Management Q&A: Gauging Wellness Success

Each week, a healthcare professional responds to a reader's query on an industry issue. This week's expert is William B. Baun, manager of human resources and wellness at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Question: How do you measure the success of wellness programs?

Response: If you look at some of the older data that's around, participation is very important. We can't belittle just counting heads — that's really important. But then you've got to move down to the behavior change that's taking place. You've got to have different measures for the different things that you're really going after, be it stress reduction or improved nutrition or increased physical activity. That could be collected via a health risk appraisal or other survey — true outcome data where you're measuring cholesterol or blood pressure, diabetic measures or efforts where you're just trying to get people to better manage their chronic diseases.

It depends on the programs you're running and the focus of your goals and objectives for that year. We find in our programs that we have a variety of different measures. You're trying to keep up with that officially and cost-effectively. There are some things that we would love to be able to measure, but we just can't do it cost-effectively.

For more details on recruiting, training and maximizing the impact of wellness champions, please visit:

We want to hear from you! Submit your question for Disease Management Q&A to info@hin.com.

3. HealthSounds Podcast: Creative Wellness Program Promotional Strategies

Get inside details from three wellness experts on how to spark interest and participation in your wellness programs. William B. Baun, manager of human resources and the wellness department at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Aaron Hardy, a wellness coordinator with Washoe County School District, and Rebecca Kelly, a wellness coordinator at American Cast Iron Pipe Company Health Services share their secrets to success in this week's Disease Management podcast.

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4. Migraines Underdiagnosed, Costing Employers

More than one-third of working adults have at least one bad headache per month, and among those who say their frequent bad headaches affect their work, about half report that their headaches made them work less effectively or decreased their productivity, according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Institute of Health Productivity Management.

Of the workers who said they get frequent bad headaches, nearly nine in 10 said they developed a bad headache at work. Despite this significant impact on their work performance, fewer than one in five frequent sufferers have sought medical attention for their bad headaches. Among those whose bad headaches impacted their work, one-third had to leave work early or have rested in their office because of a bad headache, and more than one-quarter called in sick because of a bad headache.

More than one-third (35 percent) of those surveyed experience bad headaches at least once a month but have never been diagnosed with a migraine. According to results presented at the 2006 meeting of the American Headache Society, migraines cost employers nearly $10 billion a year in migraine-related absenteeism.

To see more of this survey's results, please visit:

5. Wellness and Health Promotion: Programs and Promotions Used by Health Plans and Employers

Employee health has become a primary concern of employers who are looking to shield themselves against rising healthcare costs and improve employee morale, attendance and productivity. In a recent online survey, the Healthcare Intelligence Network asked health plans and employers about their use of health promotion programs. This executive summary specifies which programs are employed the most, along with common promotion strategies and challenges to successful programs.

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