Corporate wellness programs lacking in CVD and stroke prevention initiatives

Although corporate wellness programs are becoming more common, they have various criteria and most do not focus on cardiovascular disease and stroke prevention, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association (ASA).

The AHA and ASA plan on promoting best practices for wellness programs based on scientific evidence and working with employers to meet the standards.

Gregg C. Fonarow, MD, of the David Geffen school of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues on an AHA/ASA advisory panel presented their recommendations online in Circulation on April 13.

The researchers cited a previous study that found approximately 77 percent of employers offered wellness programs. However, they said most of the programs are not comprehensive. They said there are five elements of comprehensive programs: health education, supportive social and physical environments, integration into other organizational initiatives, linkage to related programs and wellness screening.

By 2020, the AHA and ASA are hoping to improve the cardiovascular health of Americans by 20 percent and reduce deaths resulting from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20 percent. The researchers said comprehensive wellness programs could help them achieve the goals.

When designing wellness programs, the AHA recommends employers follow its “Life’s Simple 7” initiative that focuses on seven ways to help prevent cardiovascular disease. These include stop smoking, get active, lose weight, eat better, manage blood pressure, control cholesterol and reduce blood sugar.

The advisory panel also suggested sharing effective strategies among employers and creating awards that recognize workplace wellness programs.

“As employers increasingly adopt or refine workplace wellness programs, they need guidance on evidence-based measures and optimal programs that will ultimately improve employee health—or they will be not fulfill the true potential of such programs,” Fonarow said in a news release. “Our recommendations provide a blueprint for employers to accurately track the heart health of their employees and provide clear, evidence-based solutions to improve cardiovascular health.”