First Edition | November 2010

MHealthy Leadership Update Inside this issue: President Coleman | Why MHealthy is Important | University Medical Statistics | How You Can Help


Mary Sue Coleman photo""Welcome to the first issue of the MHealthy Leadership Update. This news from MHealthy will be issued periodically to provide you with important updates on the university’s progress toward creating a campus culture of health, as well as key information on how worksite wellness programs like MHealthy can help control health-related costs.

This work is critical not only to improving our community’s health, but also to curbing long-term health costs for the university and its faculty, staff and their families. I hope you find this information valuable to your leadership role and to creating a healthier, more productive community.

Reducing Health Risks Among U-M Faculty & Staff

Char that shows the Percentage of U-M Employees at High RiskMHealthy now has comparative data based on health questionnaire results from 2009 and 2010. With the exception of stress and weight, many of our community's top health risk factors are beginning to decrease. Research suggests that reductions in health risks lower long-term health related costs. The university's goal is to achieve a 5 percent reduction in overall health risks by the end of 2013. MHealthy's recent launch of a task force to address employee stress and back care is an example of a targeted approach to help continue our progress.

*Unlike BMI, scientific literature does not support self-reported and measured blood pressure and cholesterol as reasonably comparable measures. As both were measured in 2009 and self-reported in 2010, the 2010 values are not reported on this chart.

Click here to enlarge chart.

Why MHealthy is important to you  and the university Top priorities for MHealthy in 2011

With U-M providing health benefits to more than 38,000 faculty and staff members, many of whom spend the majority of their waking hours on campus, the workplace is a natural venue for investments in health. U-M’s health benefits are one of the most rapidly increasing costs for our organization, now essentially equal to our state appropriation. In 2009, U-M spent approximately $300 million on total medical and pharmaceutical costs for faculty, staff, dependents and retirees or about $6,500 per year for each benefits-eligible employee and retiree. These numbers do not include employee and retiree contributions to health benefits.

Our goal has always been to create a culture of health where people thrive and, in part, this means shifting the university’s health care investment toward prevention. Studies show that worksite wellness programs can positively affect employees’ attitudes toward their health and their work and that even small changes in a community’s health risks can produce significant changes in costs.1

What is the potential return on investment?
We expect that U-M's health care costs could drop by $1.50 for every dollar spent on employee wellness programs. Recent research by Harvard University economists appeared in the peer reviewed journal Health Affairs suggesting that some employers may be able to reduce health care costs by as much as $3.27 and the costs of absentee days by $2.73 for each dollar spent.2

1Ozminkowski RJ, Dunn RL, Goetzel RZ, Cantor RI, Murnane J, Harrison M.  A return on investment evaluation of the Citibank, N.A., health management program.  Am J. Health Promot. 1999;14(1):31-43.

2Baicker, K, Cutler D, Song Z. Workplace wellness programs can generate savings. Health Affairs. 2010;29(2):304-311

As we embark on the third year of our MHealthy strategic plan, the following priority areas will be addressed to continue to move us toward our goals:

1) Increase engagement/participation to impact population health and related costs. National experience tells us that more than 70 percent engagement of faculty and staff is necessary to positively impact population health and costs and that this can be accomplished through leadership commitment and support, incentives for participation, and developing cultural norms and support systems.

2) Address our population’s top health risk factor and claims cost areas.  We are implementing a number of strategies to address the health risk factors of being overweight, lack of physical activity and depression in our population. In addition, Joseph Himle, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and School of Social Work, and Christopher Peterson, Professor of Psychology, College of LS&A, co-chair a taskforce addressing stress in our population, which is one of the top reported risk factors from the 2009 Wellness Assessment data. A back care task force co-chaired by Tony Chiodo, M.D., Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Dan Chapman, M.D., Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, Medical School, and a physician in Occupational Health Services, will recommend programs ranging from managing acute back pain to preventing disability.

3) Improve cultural and environmental conditions that support faculty and staff in sustaining healthier lifestyles. MHealthy staff will work with you to implement strategies in your units to create healthy workplace cultures, as this will be key to sustaining our efforts. We are working closely with university facility planners, RecSports and other partners to explore opportunities for improved fitness center access and availability. We also will continue to provide tobacco treatment services that support the university’s Smoke-Free Campus Initiative and we will work with our food service partners to ensure that healthy options are available in our dining, catering, vending and convenience stores. 

4) Refine our evaluation plan and activities to measure progress toward goals. We now have reasonable comparison data on the U-M population to help prioritize our activities in the coming years.  We will be measuring our progress and making improvements along the way. Your personal commitment to our MHealthy goals is important to our success.

U-M's health related costs could drop by $1.50 for every dollar spent on employee wellness programs.

2009 U-M Medical Claims Costs by Level of Health Risk

Results from the 2009 health questionnaire provide a snapshot of how costs relate to health risk levels. 2009 data on the cost of U-M medical and pharmaceutical claims was compared to level of health risk to reveal that U-M employees, regardless of age, with high behavioral health risks (obesity, smoking, physical inactivity, diabetes, etc.) have the greatest average claims costs at $6,185 per person per year. Low-risk employees have the lowest claims costs at $3,660 per person per year. Also note that employees that did not take the health questionnaire in 2009 (non-participants) have the second highest claims costs, falling between moderate and high risk.

Click here to enlarge chart.

2009 U-M Medical Claims Costs by Type of Health Risk

A closer look at U-M’s top health risks, based on 2009 health questionnaire results, shows how costs increase based on health risks. For example, a U-M employee who uses tobacco (high risk) incurs nearly $2,000 more in medical claims per year than an employee who does not smoke.

Click here to enlarge chart.


Photo of people showing the thumbs up sign.As a U-M leader, your support and involvement is crucial to creating a work culture that encourages faculty and staff to live healthier lives. Here are a few ways you can help:

- Include employee wellness and safety goals in your unit’s business objectives and practices.

- Be the change we want to see by participating in MHealthy programs and encouraging faculty and staff to do the same. Simply forwarding a MHealthy email announcement with a brief note of encouragement or mentioning our programs in faculty and staff meetings can make a huge difference in workplace culture.

- If your area doesn’t already have an MHealthy Wellness Champion, designate one. Wellness Champions work with MHealthy to share information on current programs and resources. The best candidate is someone who is enthusiastic about the health and well-being of our community and respected by his/her colleagues.

- Weave wellness into your workplace.  Support or participate in a lunchtime walking club, provide healthy snacks and stretch breaks at meetings, and encourage work-life balance.

We want to hear from you! Contact MHealthy to share your ideas to help reach our goals and create a healthier university. Our wellness coordinators are ready to work with you to help create a healthier work environment.

© 2010 Regents of the University of Michigan.

MHealthy Leadership Video

See how MHealthy is building a culture of health at the university by taking care of our own.