Over half of the adults in the United States live with chronic disease: a condition that lasts at least three months and generally cannot be cured by medication, nor does it go away on its own. Hypertension, heart disease, and obesity are among the most common, costly, and preventable chronic conditions.
However, since chronic disease typically cannot be prevented by vaccines, it's essential to adopt a healthy lifestyle that will prevent chronic disease from ever developing. Assisting patients with prevention and helping them better understand chronic conditions is one of the most important parts of a clinician’s job.
One struggle clinicians have is how to emphasize the importance of prevention habits for patients who might not actually see the direct results of unhealthy behaviors. It can be difficult to educate patients about healthy behaviors without resorting to the threat of poor health.
How to educate employees on chronic disease prevention
An effective way clinicians can educate and engage patients is to learn motivational interviewing techniques and then implement rapid cycle action plans. They can combine this with recognizing the patient's "readiness to change" - a principle derived from the Prochaska Model.
The Prochaska Model is widely considered as the predominant model of health behavior change. It describes the five stages that people go through on their way to change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. The Model operates under the assumption that everyone must complete specific tasks in order to reach the subsequent stage. It offers an effective structure to guide patients to a healthier lifestyle.
By utilizing each of the distinct readiness phases, clinicians can achieve superior rates of employee engagement, compliance, and completion of coaching programs. All without the threat of poor health. With motivational interviewing, there is no “shoulding or shaming.”
Education through motivation
Another way to emphasize the importantance of prevention habits is to make them fun for patients. Set up incentives. During year one, an incentive plan may encourage participation—for example completing the HHRA, biometric screening, and a Comprehensive Health Review. Year two goals may drive the achievement of health goals—for example increasing activity levels, lowering glucose levels, or decreasing BMI.
An effective way to prevent chronic disease in the workplace is through challenge programs. Develop a program to promote healthy activities for participants and to provide an incentive tracking system. Program points can be tracked and self-reported on an individual and aggregate level. The program, among other components, could include any combination of the following:
- Participation in coaching sessions
- Attendance at group sessions
- Completion of a topic-appropriate questionnaire
- Review of online educational content and interactive tools
- Review of online programs – for example, Smokeless and/or Stress Management
Utilizing these programs will boost chronic disease prevention for participants. They are interactive, fun activities that don’t resort to the threat of poor health.