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New study to examine the relationship between health and wealth

A new pilot program conducted by Iowa State University is trying to determine if improving worker health is able to reduce employees' financial stress as well.

There will be a lot of changes to company healthcare programs in the coming years. Rising insurance premiums and other healthcare expenses have increased the need for businesses to take steps to improve employee health. For many organizations, this means implementing wellness programs designed to help workers lose weight, lower their blood pressure, stop smoking and accomplish other personal goals.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will increase the amount of funding that can be dedicated to employee incentive programs as part of a wellness initiative. Up to 30 percent of the total cost of insurance coverage will be available to motivate staff members and boost participation in the initiatives. Current legislation limits spending on healthcare incentives to 20 percent of insurance expenses.

A study by Harvard Medical School revealed that for every $1 spent on wellness programs, companies can see a savings of $3 in medical costs. These initiatives can provide other benefits as well, including increased employee engagement, less turnover and reduced absenteeism. Now, a new pilot program conducted by Iowa State University is trying to determine if improving worker health is able to reduce employees' financial stress as well.

Are healthy workers more financially secure? 
Science Daily reported that there is often a correlation between physical and financial health, and Iowa State University is trying to measure how strong the connection is. Tim Griesdorn, an assistant professor with the university, noted that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing finances often related to the amount of willpower and self-control an individual has. 

"I believe one of the keys is self-control — the ability to have control over what you eat or what you spend, how to use your time, and whether or not you exercise," Griesdorn told the source. "Anything we can do to improve or strengthen someone's self-control muscle is going to have tremendous spillover effects through all areas of that person's life."

Group wellness courses have been shown to help employees stick with diets or exercise plans longer. Support and encouragement from their peers contributes to workers' willingness to participate. Employee reward and recognition programs enable companies to build a supportive corporate culture that can boost the results of healthcare initiatives. Acknowledging the various successes of individuals helps everyone see the advantages of continuing with their own efforts.

"Americans spend a lot of time at work," Iowa State University research assistant Kayli Julander told Science Daily. "If we can make it convenient for the employees to take a healthy lunch and learn how to improve their well-being or go for a walk during lunch, it's a great opportunity for the employee as well as the employer."

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