Lead a Horse to Water...then What?
- promoting a healthier and more financially secure employee population.
At a recent conference I attended, I was fortunate enough to listen to Gail MacNeill speak about diabetes management. Gail is the Manager of the Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto. She has been heavily focused on developing innovative diabetes education programs for over 20 years.
She spoke about the many challenges facing disease management. The most significant roadblock is trying to alter people’s behaviour. While motivation to change and having the ability to change are important, it is almost essential to have a trigger event create lasting behavioural change.
I started to think about how this impacts the overall benefits environment. While there is concern with the threat of the impact of specialty drugs on programs, it is still the chronic conditions that make up the vast majority of drug claims. The Centre for Disease Control has stated that 70% of chronic illnesses can be either averted or managed through a lifestyle change. This leads me to think about our wellness initiatives and what kind of impact they could have on the future integrity of a plan sponsor’s benefits offering. Given the trends in the marketplace for increasing costs, how could you impact that grade if you were to actively promote healthy lifestyle choices?
Also, what about the retirement crisis in Canada? You can find articles on a daily basis about the lack of retirement savings assets, yet what are plan members doing to change that? Statistics would say very little. Benchmarking data from Manulife suggests that 49% of plan members are not active on their online accounts. This means that almost half of plan members rely on their annual or semi-annual statements to manage their programs. Carriers now provide sophisticated systems that can assist members to set goals, plan to meet those goals, and track their progress going forward. According to Manulife data, only 15% of plan members take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.
So, where do we go from here? They say you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Gail MacNeill suggests that you can, but you need to find the right trigger. As advisors, and as plan sponsors, we also need to find that trigger that encourages us to actively promote a healthier and more financially secure employee population. I think I have found mine, and plan to make this a part of what we do in partnership with our valued clients. Now, if I can only find that trigger to fix my chocolate addiction!
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