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Making the Most of Wellness Programs

More people in Texas and across the country are gaining access to well-being programs that encourage consumers to adopt healthier lifestyles and, ideally, help curb health care costs. According to a recent study, 87 percent of employers are committed to workplace well-being efforts, and nearly 73 percent offer a program. 

These efforts are already producing results: Among people with access to employer-sponsored well-being programs, 57 percent said the initiatives had a positive effect on their health, according to the 2019 UnitedHealthcare Wellness Check Up Survey. Among those, 82 percent said they were motivated to pay more attention to their health; 63 percent said they increased physical activity; 59 percent improved their diet; and 30 percent reported improved sleep.

As people seek to improve their health habits, here are some tips to help consumers become healthier and make the most of their well-being programs: 

Modify Lifestyle Choices: As many as 80 percent or more of the incidence of premature chronic conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, are caused by modifiable lifestyle choices – such as risk factors like smoking or obesity – as opposed to being caused by genetic factors, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With that in mind, people should consider ways to make healthier choices throughout the workday, such as starting or participating in walking meetings, using onsite fitness equipment or taking advantage of biometric screenings, or opting for a stand-up desk. During breaks, choose healthier snacks such as fruits and vegetables, while go-to lunches can include a sandwich with a lean protein – such as turkey or chicken breast – or a visit to the salad bar. 

Earn Available Incentives: Mid-sized and large employers this year will offer an average per-employee well-being incentive of $762, according to a study by the National Business Group on Health. Check with your HR department to determine what well-being incentives might be available to you. For instance, some programs enable people to earn more than $1,000 per year by meeting certain daily walking goals. Other initiatives provide discounts on gym memberships and premium discounts for meeting various health benchmarks, such as a non-nicotine use or normal blood pressure. 

Start to Socialize: Recent research shows that meaningful relationships may be crucial for overall health. By incorporating social components into your well-being or fitness routine, you may be more likely to stick with it. The Wellness Check Up Survey found that over half of respondents said they are more likely to participate in a fitness routine if there is a social component, either in-person or virtually. Potential strategies include participating in walking groups, going to group fitness classes or joining recreational leagues such as basketball or tennis.       

Beat Burnout: Most employees said meditation, or mindfulness, has a positive impact on a person’s overall health, according to the Wellness Check Up Survey. To encourage mindfulness, ask your company to devote office space for “relaxation rooms” to help employees lower their stress levels, or inquire about adding an online or phone-based mindfulness program. For a do-it-yourself “mindfulness kit” to take with you to work, grab health-related items such as caffeine-free tea, a stress ball or a gratitude journal.       

Make the Most of Medicare: People eligible for Medicare – i.e., Americans 65 and older – can also take advantage of well-being programs and incentives. Medicare Advantage plans may offer rewards for actions that help you stay healthy and active, as well as additional wellness programs not available through Original Medicare. These can include fitness memberships, online brain games, nutritional support, and access to vitamins and over-the-counter health items at no additional cost.

UnitedHealthcare teams up with FC Dallas soccer club to bring health and wellness to North Texas kids

Community Clinic(2)When it comes to health and wellness, it’s never too early to start building good habits among young people.

UnitedHealthcare and FC Dallas soccer club have joined forces to bring health and wellness to North Texas neighborhoods through the establishment of free soccer clinics for kids.

More than 100 kids and their families and friends joined UnitedHealthcare and FC Dallas leaders July 22 to kick off the first Community Clinic in Highland Village, just north of Dallas-Fort Worth.

An energetic and enthusiastic crowd filled Briarhill Park and enjoyed soccer drills and other activities designed to promote health and fitness.

The Community Clinic kickoff follows on the heels of several in-school “Field Days” at schools in Plano and Frisco and is the first of a series of outreach events backed by UnitedHealthcare and FC Dallas that will help kids across North Texas find the fun in fitness and good, healthy living.

Protect yourself from the flu

Flu Shot

By Marshall Dawer M.D. M.S. F.A.C.P. ABEM
Market Medical Director, UnitedHealthcare of North Texas

With the flu season lasting until May each year, it is not too late to get a flu shot.  Flu cases have been rampant this flu season – in fact the Centers for Disease Control declared it an epidemic.

Influenza – or the flu, as it is commonly known – is a serious disease that afflicts between five and 20 percent of the population each year, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and can lead to hospitalization and even death.  It also costs our nation more than $87 billion and 17 million lost workdays each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Unfortunately, the flu is not just a cause of missed work and school.  Every year, thousands of people die from Influenza and its complications. More than 100 of the victims this past year were children.

The best way to protect yourself and reduce your chances of getting the flu is to get a flu vaccine. According to the CDC, everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine. Getting vaccinated is especially important for people who have certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or chronic lung disease, as well as for pregnant women, young children and people 65 or older.

Despite the evidence and recommendations, many people won’t get vaccinated this year – which makes it more likely they will get and transmit the flu and put themselves and those around them at risk.

Consider the following:

The flu shot is not expensive.
In most cases, the cost of a flu shot is covered by your health plan, whether you buy health insurance on your own or are covered through your employer, Medicare or Medicaid. Many employers offer free onsite flu shot clinics at the office, given that the financial, personal and professional costs of the flu far exceed the cost of the vaccination.

Young, healthy people get the flu, too.
Influenza does not discriminate by age or health habits. Just because you’re young or don’t typically get sick doesn’t mean you can’t catch the flu. Keep in mind you can catch the flu from someone who has yet to exhibit any symptoms.

Getting the flu shot vaccine is fast, easy and convenient.
Getting a flu shot takes no more than five minutes. Most neighborhood pharmacies even offer walk-in options, so you don’t need to make an appointment. If you are unemployed or your employer doesn’t offer flu shots, you can go to your primary care doctor or nearby wellness clinic, most retail pharmacies or contracted flu shot providers. To find a list of flu shot providers near you, visit and enter your zip code.

Take Preventive Measures
In addition to getting vaccinated, please remember to take preventive measures like washing your hands regularly to help reduce the spread of germs. And if you are sick with the flu, stay home to prevent spreading flu to others.

Flu season runs from October through May. So if you haven’t gotten a flu shot, now is the time to make your family’s health a priority.