Sue Parks: Why you owe it to your team to help them be healthier

Are your employees on drugs?

The answer: half of them are.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 percent of Americans use one or more prescription drugs. One out of 10 Americans uses five or more.

The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief says cholesterol and pain medications are popular among Americans between the ages of 20-59. The largest category: anti-depressants.

For your workers over 60, cholesterol treatments are the most popular followed by diuretics and high blood pressure.

There are two ways to look at prescription drug use at your company.

  1. You want your employees to go to their physicians. If they are prescribed a drug, you want them to adhere to the proper dosage and schedule. Most people don’t. Part of your wellness strategy should be about compliance.


You and the employee both invest in these drugs. For an employee with one health risk factor, you spend on average $568 more a year on prescriptions. The cost jumps to an annual average of $1,554 for an employee with two risk factors and $3,746 for an employee with three risk factors.

So, if you are making the investment, you want the employee to reap the benefits. It is good for both of you.


  1. I’d like to propose another thought. If you look at the categories of drugs noted above, most of them have connections to unhealthy lifestyles. Regular exercise and a good diet could eliminate some of the need for the heart and cholesterol medications.

Exercise reduces stress and makes you feel better. Mindfulness training helps people live in the present. Perhaps those solutions could ease usage of some of the depression-related drugs, too.


You have a lot to save if you help your employees become healthier and do not need to take as many medications that are lifestyle-related. In a previous article, I highlighted Joe, who works for one of our clients and is an active participant in our wellness program. Through exercise and diet, Joe lost enough weight he was able to stop taking his Type 2 Diabetes medications. This one change personally saved Joe $2,000 a year from his out-of-pocket drug costs.


Sobering news

Based on this study for the years of 2007 and 2008, and published in 2010, the percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription drug increased by 10 percent over the previous decade; multiple drug use increased by 20 percent; usage of five or more prescription drugs increased by 70 percent.

Doctors are prescribing drugs to solve the many issues we all face, but you have your own prescription — wellness.

We live in a world where everyone wants the magic pill. So far, a magic pill doesn’t exist.  And, if it did, it would come with two paragraphs of negative side effects.

However, a sustainable, wellness program can work some magic to help your employees. The side effects: healthier, engaged, and more productive employees.

Sign me up to that prescription plan!  How about you?