Use of a health risk assessment is one of the most commonly offered wellness activities in many companies. That’s because the health risk assessment offers many benefits: it identifies health risk factors on an individual level to increase personal awareness and stimulate engagement, it offers an essential planning tool for wellness activities and it establishes benchmarks for long-term evaluation.
Lately, there have been a number of articles written about the validity of information obtained by having employees complete a health risk assessment. One of the major criticisms is that a self-reporting tool is too subjective. Still, people’s perceptions of their own health have been found to be a good predictor of future health care use and of mortality rates.
Substantial research extending over three decades documents the overall validity of health risk assessment data. Here are a few samples:
A 2011 HealthPartners research study reported on the validity of self-reported body weight as compared to directly-measured body weight. The results indicated that the discrepancy between self-reported and measured body weight appears to be relatively small.
A 2010 study of Prudential Financial employees reported data and measured values for overall cholesterol and HDL. Prudential showed a direct correlation between health risk changes through the health assessment and control over health care spending.
Overall, research shows that health risk assessments are effective in making participants aware of their risk factors and motivating them to take action to change them. But the true effectiveness of the health risk assessment lies in the application of the information acquired. Employers can use aggregate health risk assessment results to discover the particular risk factors most prevalent in their employee population, and then use this information to develop programs and to match initiatives to the employee group.
To ensure accuracy, the health risk assessment questionnaire should include a section for entering key biometric data including total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, blood sugar, blood pressure, and height and weight. Some of the most significant opportunities for health care cost reduction come from this biometric data.
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