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The Relationship Between 11 Health Risks and Medical and Productivity Costs for a Large Employer

Kowlessar, Niranjana M. PhD; Goetzel, Ron Z. PhD; Carls, Ginger Smith PhD; Tabrizi, Maryam J. MS, CHES; Guindon, Arlene MPH

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: May 2011 - Volume 53 - Issue 5 - p 468–477
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31821586b8
ORIGINAL ARTICLES: CME Available for this Article at

Objective: To evaluate the relationship between modifiable health risks, and health and productivity related expenditures and predict cost savings from improvements in the health risk profile of a large US employer.

Methods: Information was collected on 11 modifiable health risks for active employees who completed a health assessment and enrolled in a noncapitated health plan. These risks were related to employer medical care costs and employee productivity. Multivariate analyses were performed to estimate costs associated with high risk, as well as potential savings from reducing risk prevalence among employees.

Results: Health risks with the greatest impact on total medical care costs included obesity, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, high triglycerides, and inadequate exercise.

Conclusions: Modifiable health risks are associated with higher employer costs. Targeted programs that address these risks are expected to yield substantial savings.

From the Thomson Reuters (Health care and Science), Health and Productivity Research, Washington, DC (Drs Kowlessar, Goetzel, and Carls and Ms Tabrizi); Rollins School of Public Health, Institute for Health and Productivity Studies, Emory University, Washington, DC (Dr Goetzel); and Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Rochester, Minn (Ms Guindon).

Address correspondence to: Ron Z. Goetzel, PhD, Thomson Reuters, 4301 Connecticut Ave, NW, Ste No. 330 Washington, DC 20008 (

This work was funded by a grant to Thomson Reuters from the Mayo Foundation. Authors Ron Z. Goetzel, Niranjana M. Kowlessar, Ginger S. Carls, Maryam J. Tabrizi, and Arlene Guindon have no financial interest related to this research.

The JOEM Editorial Board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

©2011The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine