What’s happening with AARP vs. EEOC on March 30?

The the EEOC’s ADA regulations permit an employer wellness program that is open only to employees who are enrolled in a particular plan to offer a financial incentive, provided it did not exceed 30% of the total cost for self-only coverage of the plan in which the employee is enrolled. In the fall of 2016, the AARP brought suit on behalf of its members, arguing that the regulations are inconsistent with Congress’s statutory requirement that employers’ wellness programs be “voluntary.”

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Are changing regulations leaving your wellness program in limbo?

Employers currently using wellness programs are likely already aware of the privacy and discrimination laws and regulations restricting their use. However, as they work to design and implement programs for 2018, employers with existing programs and those thinking about starting one for the first time need to be aware that these regulations should be changing in the not-too-distant future.

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From Our Chief Medical Officer: The New Blood Pressure Guidelines

blood pressure wellness company

In November of 2017, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) presented new guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of hypertension.

The new diagnosis of hypertension, or high blood pressure, is now established at lower numbers. As a result of these new guidelines, 46% of the adult US population will have “high blood pressure.” The number of young men under age 45 with a diagnosis of high blood pressure will triple, and will double for young women. 

The new guidelines state that normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg.  Stage 1 hypertension is systolic 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89. The previous consensus guidelines defined Stage 1 as systolic 140-149 or diastolic 90-99. 

On December 12, 2017, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), my parent organization, decided against endorsing the AHA/ACC hypertension guidelines. They decided to stay with JNC-8, the “2014 Evidence-Based Guideline for the Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults.”

What should we do in the corporate wellness community? On the front lines of health promotion, we are very aware of the epidemic of unhealthy lifestyles. Obesity, sedentary lifestyles, and smoking are contributing to high levels of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. It is not a shock that half of adults will be labeled as having high blood pressure with these new guidelines.

After careful consideration, Provant has elected to endorse and embrace the new ACC/AHA guidelines.

We feel strongly that addressing elevated blood pressures with lifestyle advice, and engaging with more individuals at an earlier stage, is beneficial to the health of individuals and society. We are advising positive lifestyle changes: increasing activity, healthy eating, decreasing stress. This is good not just for cardiovascular health, but for all other aspects of well-being, including emotional health. There is nothing controversial about advising on healthy habits earlier in life.

The greatest controversy in the new guidelines is the lack of attention to the negative side of aggressive treatment with medications to a lower blood pressure farther than previously. The potential side effects of the medications and the effect of blood pressure that is too low are real. However, we avoid that controversy by not being involved in the pharmaceutical aspect of treatment for high blood pressure.  

Positive interaction with patients and employees regarding healthy living is beneficial to overall health. The new blood pressure guideline increases the opportunities and challenges for cardiovascular health promotion. Lower blood pressure numbers, obtained through positive lifestyle changes, will improve individual health and wellness. 

 

David Ashley, MD
Chief Medical Officer

 

How does poor sleep impact employees’ overall health and job performance?

When we’re preoccupied with juggling work, family and personal lives, sleep is often one of the first things that’s neglected. As those commitments increase and our free time seems to wane all too quickly, few of us remember to prioritize getting more zzz’s. Yet it’s a very important aspect of our overall health, including the achievement of our weight goals.

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