GateHouse News Service's weekly Health Watch with tips on workplace health and wellness, fructose and diabetes prevention.

Small-business owners' most pressing wellness concerns include stress and employees' sick days, as identified through a recent study of more than 1,000 small-business owners and decision-makers. High employee stress ranks No. 1.

The national study by Humana Inc., one of the nation's leading health care companies, and the National Small Business Association found that while an overwhelming 93 percent of small business owners consider employees' physical and mental health as contributors to business results, only one-third are confident in their ability to help employees manage their health and wellness.

If you work for a small business, there is a good chance that your employer doesn't have a health and wellness program in place. Only 22 percent of small businesses offer their employees access to such options. But among those that do, 85 percent think these types of offerings are worth the investment. Three in four say such programs enhance their profits.

"As the economy continues to improve, wellness solutions likely will continue to be of interest and an increasingly important part of the employee value proposition," predicts Jerry Ganoni, president of Humana's small group employer segment. Ganoni believes it's crucial for the health insurance industry to focus on providing small-business owners with the information they need to make wellness decisions that will help to recruit and retain employees while enhancing their bottom lines.

So why aren't more small business owners embracing wellness initiatives as bottom-line boosters? (Wellness initiatives are considered those that encourage employees to make healthier choices such as getting preventive care, eating right and exercising.)

More than half say enough information isn't available about starting and using health and wellness programs. Another key challenge they list: employee interest in such programs. Forty-eight percent of respondents who used to have or never had wellness options believe lack of interest among employees ranks as the top barrier to introducing one.

However, despite these obstacles, interest among small business owners in considering and providing health and wellness initiatives actually is on the rise. Younger businesses were reportedly more likely to have health and wellness programs in place than businesses older than 10 years, the Humana-NSBA study reveals.

In fact, 31 percent of startups - those companies less than a decade old - offer them. Startup business owners view these benefits as a tool for employee recruitment and retention; one in four report being most motivated by employee demand versus 3 percent for more established companies.

"Workplace wellness programs can play a big role in keeping health care accessible and affordable for employers and employees," says NSBA President Todd McCracken.

There seems to be little question that health and wellness programs pay off for employees. For every $1 spent on worksite health-promotion programs, a company sees an average of $3.50 in savings related to fewer sick days, more productive work time, and reduced health care costs, according to research from the Partnership for Prevention.

-- Brandpoint

New Research

A study by the Yale University School of Medicine found that ingestion of glucose, but not fructose, decreased blood flow to and activity in the area of the brain that regulates hunger and caused a rise in hormones that regulate feelings of fullness. Researchers believe that the difference between the body's reactions to glucose and fructose provides insight into one of the possible causes of the obesity epidemic. Fructose is an ingredient in most processed food, mostly through the ingredient high fructose corn syrup.


Health Tip

While it may sound simple, one of the best ways to stay healthy and prevent the spread of germs is to wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Especially during the flu season, washing your hands thoroughly is important to staying healthy. If you're traveling and you don't have access to clean water and soap, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the next best thing.

-- Brandpoint

Number to Know

127.1 million: Approximate number of flu vaccines doses distributed so far this flu season.


Boomer Health: Focusing on diabetes

In the U.S., there are nearly 26 million people living with diabetes and more seniors have diabetes than any other age group - 10.9 million, or 26.9 percent, of all people 65 and older.

"Currently, one in four Americans over the age of 60 is living with diabetes and there is a great need for further education among older adults," says Dr. Vanessa Jones Briscoe, chairwoman of the Older Adult Subcommittee and Board Member for the American Diabetes Association.

In 2012 the American Diabetes Association launched its Senior Signature Series. The series looks to expand education and outreach efforts to seniors across the country. The series includes half-day educational events for individuals 50 and older to learn more about diabetes, numerous resources, helpful materials and health screenings. Its goal is to educate older adults about how they can reduce their risk of diabetes and its complications. Because of its great success in 2012, the series will be back in 2013, and will include even more dates and locations across the country.

"Through continuing our Senior Signature Series, the American Diabetes Association will provide the tips and resources needed to help seniors address the challenge of preventing type 2 diabetes and keeping diabetes treatment from impairing their lifestyle, or slowing them down," Briscoe says. "The educational resources in the series are important not only for those older adults living with diabetes, but for their family members or caregivers as well."

One way to reduce your risk of developing diabetes, or to better manage it, is physical activity. Benefits include:

- Improving your A1C, a test that measures your average blood glucose (sugar) control, blood pressure and cholesterol  - Having more energy - Burning calories to help you lose or maintain your weight - Keeping your joint flexible - Improving your balance to prevent falls - Lowering your risk for heart disease and stroke

Almost all older adults who develop diabetes have type 2 diabetes, and older adults with diabetes often have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, infections that heal slowly and they are at risk for heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. Seniors with diabetes are also more likely to have memory problems and depression. Awareness and education is critical in helping seniors to lead healthier lives.

For more information, or to download the "Living Healthy with Diabetes" guide for adults 55 and up, visit

-- Brandpoint

GateHouse News Service