EXEC HEALTH : A look under the hood

There’s no doubt that putting our health under the microscope can be uncomfortable.
However, there’s plenty of evidence that momentary discomfort can prevent ongoing health problems, hospitalisation or even save your life.
Many of us associate going for medical check up with being ill. But for some life-threatening illnesses, physical symptoms may only appear at very advanced stage. In fact, what many people don’t realise is that in third of cardiovascular disease cases, the first symptom is death.
That’s why taking time out for thorough heath check, assessment or ‘warrant of fitness’ might be the best decision you ever made. comprehensive health assessment will not only check for lumps, bumps and anything ‘out of the ordinary’, but will also include discussion of the lifestyle factors that may pose risk to your future good health.
There are enormous benefits from switching our focus from treatment to early intervention and preventative measures.
A 2006 study found that 31 percent of admissions to Christchurch Hospital in 2003 were potentially avoidable. Examples included lung disease, cervical and breast cancer, cardiovascular diseases, early detection and excision of melanomas, and effective glycaemic control in people with diabetes.
However, there are instances when serious illness, such as cancer, can strike even those with the healthiest of lifestyles. For many cancers, early detection dramatically improves survival rates. For women under 50, regular screening reduces the chance of developing breast cancer by around 20 percent. Between ages 50-65, this rises to 30 percent.
Bowel cancer is New Zealand’s second biggest cause of cancer-related death – in part because it is most often not detected until an advanced stage. Yet if discovered early, the survival rate is around 80 percent.
We spend good portion of our waking hours in the workplace, so it makes sense that lifestyle changes in this environment can have significant impact on our health. What’s more, research has shown that healthier employees are more engaged in their work, have fewer absentee days and are more productive.
But where do you start? Options for health and wellness initiatives are many and varied – from something as simple as weekly yoga class to more comprehensive long-term programmes. However, more than ever, employers need to see clear return on investment – not simply in monetary terms, but in the time and goodwill invested by staff.
That’s why one of the best places to kick off is by offering health check.
The baseline data gathered from the first health check will enable employees to monitor progress towards their own health goals. Over time, employers can track this data against measurements such as staff engagement surveys, productivity levels or absentee days to monitor whether the investment in healthier workforce is also providing healthy return for the business.

Peter Tynan is chief executive of Southern Cross Health Society.

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