Health assessments help curb chronic disease

Chelsea Wells
Chelsea Wells

Experts predict that by 2023, the cumulative costs of chronic diseases in the United States will climb to $4.2 trillion. Talk about a financial burden that’s practically impossible to wrap your head around.

Such chronic diseases as diabetes, cancer and heart disease are increasing at unprecedented rates in the U.S. and costing employers, individuals and taxpayers a lot of money.

Chronic disease is often related to poor lifestyle choices. When people lead sedentary lives and eat poor diets, their risk for chronic disease increases.

Chronic diseases become especially costly because they often require long-term treatment plans that can include medications, surgery, doctor’s visits and therapy. Chronic diseases also affect quality of life. The stress on the body causes absenteeism and presenteeism at work, poor mental health, self-esteem issues, harmful effects on relationships and much more.

Here’s the good news, though: You can almost always prevent or at least reduce the effects of chronic disease by embracing a healthy lifestyle. What is a healthy lifestyle? The definition varies from person to person because everyone is unique. However, tools are available to give everyone a baseline on where their health stands and how to improve it.

Completing a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) will provide a snapshot of current health status and ways to make healthy behavior changes. It can help you prevent chronic diseases, adding years to your life and money in your pockets. An HRA typically entails getting your height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose taken and then completing a questionnaire. Most programs will give you a personal wellness report that includes ways to improve your health.

For some, an HRA might seem intimidating, especially if they already know they have poor habits or need to drop a few pounds. But an HRA also can provide motivation to take action. HRAs give you a starting point from which to grow. Completed year after year, HRAs reflect trends and track progress. For those who already know they’re in good health, an HRA is still a valuable tool. Tracking trends in our health is important for all of us.

Many people’s health and lifestyle choices decline as they grow older due to stress, marriage, family and lack of time to exercise or cook meals. By doing an annual HRA, you’ll be able to see where you can make improvements or stay on track.

Many employers offer an annual HRA to their employees. This benefits the employer because of the aggregate health data generated. Employers can also use HRA results to assess insurance plan costs and create a culture of wellness at the workplace.

The Mesa County Health Department offers low-cost Health Risk Assessments for employers. Health promotion specialists visit your business to facilitate the assessment and provide support for work site wellness. For more information, e-mail healthymesacounty@mesacounty.us or call 683-6655.

Wellness is important, and it begins with knowing how healthy you are — by participating in a Health Risk Assessment.