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  • ACOEM Campaign Helps Employers Address Hypertension as Part of American Heart Month

    Awareness campaign for the workplace provides tools and information on preventing and managing high blood pressure — the leading risk factor for heart disease

    In recognition of February as American Heart Month, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) is providing tools and resources to help employers identify and respond to the impact of hypertension (high blood pressure) — a leading risk factor for heart disease — on worker health and productivity. These resources and tools are provided as part of ACOEM’s year-long campaign to address chronic disease in the workplace.

    An estimated 68 million U.S. adults (about 1 in 3) have high blood pressure, which increases the risk for premature cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and stroke, leading causes of death. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that hypertension is one of the 10 most expensive health conditions for U.S. employers and is responsible for 35 million office visits each year. In 2010, the economic costs of cardiovascular diseases and stroke were estimated at $444.2 billion, including $272.5 billion in direct medical expenses and $171.7 billion in indirect costs. The estimated direct and indirect cost of high blood pressure alone for 2010 was $76.6 billion.

    High blood pressure can be treated with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes, and employers can work to control this problem on a daily basis by providing a supportive environment through wellness programs that enable healthy lifestyle choices. “Workplace hypertension screening and health risk assessment programs can be an effective way for employers to help their employees improve their lives by preventing heart disease and at the same time lower health care costs and absenteeism and increase employee productivity,” said Barry Eisenberg, ACOEM executive director.

    “In addition to offering blood pressure screening programs, worksite wellness programs can address the other risk factors for cardiovascular disease — obesity, smoking, job stress, and environmental factors — and prevent or manage these risks. These programs — by leveraging the power of prevention — are the only sustainable solution to our society’s health crisis,” said Ron Loeppke, MD, MPH, ACOEM President-elect. “ACOEM is committed to providing employers with the resources to promote the healthiest workforce possible through an emphasis on wellness and prevention activities that engage workers and their families to be more proactive about their health,” said Dr. Loeppke.

    To address hypertension in the workplace, ACOEM is making available information on heart health and blood pressure management as well as practical resources for employers to learn more about hypertension/heart disease prevention and maintenance programs in the workplace. One such instrument, the Blueprint for Health, provides a free on-line calculator that estimates the overall total health-related costs to employers as well as the impact of specific chronic conditions such as hypertension and heart disease on absenteeism.

    This initiative to prevent and manage high blood pressure is part of ACOEM’s Healthy Workforce Now (HWN) program launched in 2009. The goal of HWN is to build a healthier and safer workforce and integrate workplace health and wellness more effectively with the nation’s overall health reform efforts. Healthy Workforce Now advances such action items as establishing a new “national culture of health in the workplace,” better access to health care services for workers, a reduction in workplace health disparities, improvements aimed at the workers’ compensation system and a stronger national response to environmental health risks.

    To learn more about ACOEM’s HWN campaign, or the Blueprint for Health, visit www.acoem.org.

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    About ACOEM — The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) represents more than 4,500 physicians specializing in occupational and environmental medicine. Founded in 1916, ACOEM is the nation’s largest medical society dedicated to promoting the health of workers through preventive medicine, clinical care, disability management, research, and education. For more information, visit www.acoem.org.