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Reduction in Health Risks and Disparities With Participation in an Employer-Sponsored Health Promotion Program

Burton, Wayne N. MD; Chen, Chin-Yu PhD; Li, Xingquan MS; Schultz, Alyssa B. PhD; Edington, Dee W. PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: August 2013 - Volume 55 - Issue 8 - p 873–878
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31829b2a91
Original Articles

There is an increasing awareness among employers and health care providers that health care needs to be tailored to address the diversity of the workforce. Population-based data have shown significant differences in health behaviors and health risks among different racial/ethnic groups in the United States. The purpose of this study was to examine health risks and changes in health risks over time in an employed population at a financial services corporation. This large financial services corporation is naturally concerned about any disparities in health among employees. The study population consists of employees who participated in the organization's medical plan and also the annual health risk appraisal questionnaire in both 2009 and 2010. Significant demographic differences exist among the four ethnic groups studied: whites, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. At baseline, African American employees had a significantly higher average number of health risks measured by the health risk appraisal, but they also experienced the greatest improvement in health risks by time 2. There were differences in the health risk profiles of the ethnic groups, with certain risk factors being more prevalent among some ethnicities than among others. The health care costs were not significantly different among the groups studied here. It is likely that other large employers may also find health risk differences among employees belonging to various ethnicities. Future research in this field should seek to understand the reasons behind differences in health among ethnic groups and how best to address them so that all employees can achieve a high level of health and wellness.

From the American Express Company (Dr Burton), New York; and University of Michigan Health Management Research Center (Drs Chen, Schultz, and Edington and Mr Li), Ann Arbor.

Address correspondence to: Wayne N. Burton, MD, American Express Company, 200 Vesey Street, New York, NY 10285-3805 (

Authors Burton, Chen, Li, Schultz, and Edington have no relationships/conditions/circumstances that present potential conflict of interest.

The JOEM editorial board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

Copyright © 2013 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine