Thursday, August 25, 2011

Heart Health Initiative Results and ROI

Early this year I heard David Foreman speak about heart health. Dave is a retired pharmacist, naturopathic doctor, practitioner of natural living and holistic approaches to better health, and a fellow Gamecock. His talk prompted me to dig through reports on our prescription drug utilization. 13% of the adults covered by our health plan take statins and, after listening to Dave, I became concerned they could have more of a negative impact on my colleagues' health than a positive one. Our annual prescription drug costs for statins are over $30,000 a year. So, it seemed reasonable to invest in some sort of cholesterol program. I contacted Dave and together we designed a 12 week heart health initiative for our staff.

We kicked off the initiative in April. Dave spoke to interested staff and we offered cholesterol and CRP screenings. 42 staff participated in the baseline screenings. Dave talked with us about his four pillars of health -- diet, exercise, spirituality and supplementation -- as they relate to heart health. Dave also educated us a bit about the risks associated with statins. After staff received their lab test results, we gave them the opportunity participate in a 12 week initiative designed to lower their cholesterol. Participants pledged to:
  • Eat as described in Food Rules -- Eat food. Not to much. Mostly plants.
  • Move a little -- the equivalent of a 30 minute brisk walk or more per day
  • Take 150 mg of Sytrinol twice daily 
  • Take 2,000 mg of Coromega Omega 3s daily

Dave arranged to have Coromega and a Sytrinol manufacturer donate the supplements for our program. Participants were each provided with a welcome kit and encouraged to participate in a discussion of Food Rules. We also took a field trip to a local farmers' market to apply what we learned in the book. Dave joined us for two video chats during the course of the initiative to answer participant's questions and share additional information. 

All participants agreed to complete an end point screening in July so they could assess whether the changes they made were working. 16 staff members chose to participate in the program. 
  • 37% (6) lowered the total cholesterol
  • 50% (8) lowered their triglycerides
  • 44% (7) increased their HDL (good cholesterol)
  • 31% (5) lowered their LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • 19% (3) lowered their CRP

It's rare that I can calculate a meaningful ROI for a component of our wellness program, but this initiative provided the opportunity. (The cost of our screenings was covered under our annual contract with LifeWork Strategies. However, I'll break it out on a fee-for-service basis here.) 

At least one individual was able to eliminate the use of a statin saving herself $280 a year and our plan over $3,600 per year. So, even if we assume that there was only that one return on our investment, we will have recouped the full cost of the program in 14 months. 

The program didn't work for everyone, but seven individuals plan to continue with it and I'm pleased with the ROI. One of the participants, Carol Williams, shares her story here


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