Fighting Depression in the Workplace

dgb-depression-blogWhile awareness of mental health concerns in the workplace is increasing, studies repeatedly show that not enough employees feel comfortable utilizing mental health benefits. Furthermore, many employees are often unaware mental health benefits are even available. With more than 40 million Americans living with depression, it’s more important than ever to make sure the workplace is taking positive steps to address it. Here are positive steps your company can take:

Take a holistic approach. Addressing the many areas of wellness, including physical, financial and mental, equally can help employees feel safe enough to seek treatment through employer provided healthcare plans. Stigma is still a major barrier to access, but employers can encourage accessing treatment by putting the necessary emphasis on mental health and wellness. Providing an open space for conversation, information and support can increase overall employee mental wellness. And of course, extending benefits to all family members can prove extremely valuable.

Keep employees informed. Though your company may have excellent programs and benefits to address mental illness and depression, it’s possible that your employees are unaware of how to access them. When bringing the discussion of mental wellness into the public space it’s important that the tools and avenues to accessing help are made very clear.

Promote flexibility. Certain industries deal with more critical situations, such as safety concerns, fatigue or a high risk of injury. While there is no “off the shelf” solution to mental wellness, employers can play a major role in bringing mental health out in the open. And today more than ever, a company is only as healthy as its employees.

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Student Loan Benefits Catch On

student-loanConsulting firm Willis Towers Watson expects more than a third of employers to offer student loan consolidation programs by 2021. This represents huge growth, since the Society of Human Resource Management says only 4% of employers offer student loan repayment benefits now. Willis also expects 35% of employers to offer student loan refinancing arrangements by 2021. Many employers offering this benefit are doing so by distributing a lump sum benefit over 5 to 8 years. It’s no surprise that this approach seems to be boosting employee retention rates – since millennials and Gen Z employees are strapped with about $30,000 of student loan debt and in many cases, lower wages than their parents were making at their age.

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Apple Winning in Mobile Health

mobile phoneAfter rolling out a software update for its iPhone earlier this year, Apple announced that its Health Records feature is now being piloted by 39 health systems across the U.S. The feature enables patients who have medical information from multiple institutions to organize their data in one bucket containing allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and vitals. Data from all participating healthcare organizations can be viewed by patients, however Apple Health Records does not currently enable patients to send messages to providers or schedule appointments. Apps from electronic health record vendors Epic and Cerner currently offer this functionality.

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How America got hooked on a deadly drug

This article was published on June 14, 2018 on BenefitsPro, written by Fred Schulte, Kaiser Health News (Maria Fabrizio for KHN) . Photo Source: BenefitsPro.

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Purdue Pharma left almost nothing to chance in its whirlwind marketing of its new painkiller OxyContin.

From 1996 to 2002, Purdue pursued nearly every avenue in the drug supply and prescription sales chain — a strategy now cast as reckless and illegal in more than 1,500 federal civil lawsuits from communities in Florida to Wisconsin to California that allege the drug has fueled a national epidemic of addiction.

Kaiser Health News is releasing years of Purdue’s internal budget documents and other records to offer readers a chance to evaluate how the privately held Connecticut company spent hundreds of millions of dollars to launch and promote the drug, a trove of information made publicly available here for the first time.

All of these internal Purdue records were obtained from a Florida attorney general’s office investigation of Purdue’s sales efforts that ended late in 2002.

I have had copies of those records in my basement for years. I was a reporter at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, which, along with the Orlando Sentinel, won a court battle to force the attorney general to release the company files in 2003. At the time, the Sun-Sentinel was writing extensively about a growing tide of deaths from prescription drugs such as OxyContin.

We drew on the marketing files to write two articles, including one that exposed possible deceptive marketing of the drug. Now, given the disastrous arc of prescription drug abuse over the past decade and the stream of suits being filed — more than a dozen on some days — it seemed time for me to share these seminal documents that reveal the breadth and detail of Purdue’s efforts.

Asked by Kaiser Health News for comment on the OxyContin marketing files and the suits against the company, Purdue Pharma spokesman Robert Josephson issued a statement that reads in part:

“Suggesting activities that last occurred more than 16 years ago, for which the company accepted responsibility, helped contribute to today’s complex and multi-faceted opioid crisis is deeply flawed. The bulk of opioid prescriptions are not, and have never been, for OxyContin, which represents less than 2% of current opioid prescriptions.”

Purdue first marketed OxyContin for cancer pain but planned to expand that use to meet its multimillion-dollar sales goals.

The marketing files show that about 75 percent of more than $400 million in promotional spending occurred after the start of 2000, the year Purdue officials told Congress they learned of growing OxyContin abuse and drug-related deaths from media reports and regulators. These internal Purdue marketing records show the drugmaker financed activities across nearly every quarter of medicine, from awarding grants to health care groups that set standards for opioid use to reminding reluctant pharmacists how they could profit from stocking OxyContin pills on their shelves.

Purdue bought more than $18 million worth of advertising in major medical journals that cheerily touted OxyContin. Some of the ads, federal officials said in 2003, “grossly overstated” the drug’s safety.

The Purdue records show that the company poured more than $8 million into a website and venture called “Partners Against Pain,” which helped connect patients to doctors willing to treat their pain, presumably with OxyContin or other opioids. Continue reading

Drug Overdose Deaths Rising

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According to preliminary government data, U.S. deaths involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids fueled a 21% jump in annual drug overdose deaths during 2017. The increase from 9,945 opioid deaths in 2016 to 20,145 during 2017 reflected the sharpest one-year increase since the U.S. began experiencing a widespread opioid addiction. CDC data shows that deaths involving heroin and prescription painkillers such as oxycodone, are also increasing.

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New York, Connecticut among worst in hospital safety, survey finds

This article was published on May 23, 2018 on Westfaironline, written by Aleesia Forni. Photo Source: Westfaironline.

New York and Connecticut ranked among the worst states in the nation in terms of hospital safety, according to a recent survey.

According to the Leapfrog Hospital Survey covering the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, New York ranked 48th in the nation, coming in ahead of Alaska, Delaware and North Dakota, which were tied for last in 49th place. New York’s ranking at 48 marks a drop from last year’s rank of 47th in the country. Connecticut fared similarly, ranking 46th in the nation; the state fell 16 spots from its 2017 ranking of 30th.

As part of the survey, Leapfrog assigned letter grades to hospitals based on their record of patient safety. States were then ranked based on the number of “A” hospitals they have compared with the total number of graded hospitals.

Hospital providers in Westchester and Fairfield counties were given mixed grades.

While no hospitals in Westchester earned an A, Northern Westchester Hospital was one of two in the county to receive a B grade. Leapfrog noted that the hospital had a lower number of MRSA infections than expected given its number of patients. However, the hospital had a higher number of infections in the urinary tract and the blood than expected given its patient count. The hospital’s grade remained flat from its fall rating, which fell from a consistent A grade it had received since 2016.

White Plains Hospital was also awarded a B and reported lower than expected numbers of MRSA, blood and urinary tract infections. The hospital’s marks improved from last year’s grade of a C.

Elsewhere, Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital, New York-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor, and New York-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital were each awarded a C, as were St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers and the St. John’s Riverside Hospital Dobbs Ferry Pavilion.

Unity Hospital in Rochester, Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck, HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley-Broadway Campus in Kingston, and MidHudson Regional Hospital of Westchester Medical Center in Poughkeepsie each earned a C grade.

In Fairfield County, Stamford Health earned a B rating, while Bridgeport Hospital, Danbury Hospital, Greenwich Hospital, Norwalk Hospital, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, and Yale-New Haven Hospital earned C grades.

Five hospitals in New York state received an A grade. Those hospitals were Catholic Health-Kenmore Mercy Hospital, Highland Hospital of Rochester, Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson, NYC Health Hospitals-Metropolitan, Oneida Healthcare Center, St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, and St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse. Putnam Hospital Center in Carmel was the only hospital in the Lower Hudson Valley to receive the top grade.

In Connecticut, only two hospitals received the top grade: Bristol Hospital and The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich.

The worst grades in New York were saved for five hospitals. Interfaith Medical Center, Brookdale Hospital Medical Center and Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in Patchogue, and Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island each earned an F.

Founded in 2000, The Leapfrog Group is a nonprofit that collects and reports hospital performance. More than 2,600 hospitals were issued a grade, which is derived from an analysis of publicly available data.

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What’s in a Wellness Program?

scaleThe thought of a corporate wellness program conjures up visions of apples and scales. The notion that wellness programs are built only to keep weight in check barely scratches the surface of what wellness can do. A well thought-out program takes the health needs of your employee population into consideration, but also envelopes the bigger wellness picture.

Supporting overall wellness is a carefully-orchestrated act that requires regular attention to a variety of topics beyond just diet and exercise. While these things are important, a great wellness program exceeds screening for health issues and takes into consideration the social, financial, spiritual, intellectual and emotional factors that make up overall well-being. Ignoring these and solely focusing on biometrics would be like trying to fix a broken pipe without turning off the water!

Wellness programs are fun!
Engaging activities are a great way to educate and motivate employees to make positive lifestyle changes. Creativity is king in corporate wellness. Delivering information in a meaningful way could utilize table displays, interactive presentations, health fairs and field days, one-on-one health coaching and much more.

Extracurricular activities during the workday improve employee morale and show that the company cares. The result is a happier, more productive and more engaged work force. A company that values employee wellness has a greater ability to attract and retain key employees, enhancing their business overall. Focusing a wellness program where employees need the most help has the potential to lower the cost of healthcare and reduce absenteeism and presenteeism over time.

A truly successful wellness program shifts company culture to a healthier place. It takes cooperation from all parties within the company to instill significant change in wellness culture. Creating a healthy and happy work environment is a daily affair that is within reach with the help of a professional wellness partner.

If starting a wellness program for your company has you scratching your head, call to set up a consultation with Corporate Fitness and Health! What works for one company’s employees may not work for another. Each program is tailored to the needs and budget of the group. Our experienced staff can help determine your company’s needs and develop a unique program designed with your employees in mind.