Monday, April 19, 2010


IWS Documented News Service
Institute for Workplace Studies----------------- Professor Samuel B. Bacharach
School of Industrial & Labor Relations-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies
Cornell University
16 East 34th Street, 4th floor----------------------
Stuart Basefsky
New York, NY 10016 -------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau


Towers Watson



[full-text, 15 pages]


Related information at



Press Release 14 April 2010

Common U.S. Health Risks Surface Abroad At Multinationals


NEW YORK, N.Y., April 14, 2010 — As obesity, work-related stress and chronic disease accelerate among the non-U.S.-based employees of multinationals, the number of multinational companies that are taking a global approach to mitigate these so-called “lifestyle diseases” will double by 2012. These findings were revealed by the Workforce Health Strategies: A Multinational Perspective, a survey conducted by Towers Watson (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW), a global professional services company.


While only about one in four (26%) multinational companies has a global health strategy in place today, an equal number plan to implement a global health strategy by 2012. Among companies that currently have a global health strategy in place, 74% apply that strategy to 95% of their employees or more, and 71% apply it to all the countries where they have significant business operations.


Another revealing trend is the high number of multinationals that offer employer-sponsored health care coverage overseas. The survey data also show that 77% of the companies surveyed offer employee health programs in lieu of, or in addition to, publicly provided programs in all or most of the countries in which they operate. The role of this supplementary coverage is to either “top up” the local socialized system or fill an important gap in countries where there is a significant deficit in the public health system.


“Contrary to popular belief, the United States is not the only country where employer-sponsored, private health care coverage is the norm,” said Nicole Serfontein, senior international consultant with Towers Watson. “However, the tools used to manage health risks in the United States are not yet as prevalent or developed elsewhere. This not only hinders many multinationals from effectively mitigating these risks, it also could lead to a U.S.-like escalation in employer health care costs.”


With chronic conditions, stress and behavioral issues driving medical inflation, multinationals are beginning to shift the focus of their global health care programs from the cost of care to the prevention of illness. Many companies indicate that stress (83%), chronic conditions (77%) and obesity (63%) can have a high or moderate impact on their health care costs and workforce productivity, but few multinationals today have implemented the tools to effectively manage them on a truly global basis.


According to the survey:


    * Only 40% of respondents provide case management programs (in most or all countries), which typically monitor, coordinate and help improve patient care, quality and costs for individuals with complex conditions.

    * Only 25% of companies provide disease management programs (in most or all countries) aimed at addressing chronic illnesses.

    * Just over 30% offer health promotion, health screenings and behavioral health programs in most or all countries.

    * Only 25% provide health risk assessments in most or all countries.


The slow adoption of many of these tactics is partly due to the challenges multinationals face when implementing them outside the United States. Survey respondents indicate that non-U.S. markets lack available or reliable health care cost data (51%), health care products and services (44%), and desired health care vendors (39%).


“To mitigate growing health care risks and associated costs as well as boost worker productivity, multinationals can increase their use of health strategies that are truly global,” said Francis Coleman, senior international consultant with Towers Watson. “In particular, forward-looking multinationals are using leading indicators of health and well-being to proactively and effectively focus their resources rather than react to the rising costs caused by lifestyle diseases and increased adoption of advanced medical technologies.”


Conducted in late 2009, the survey includes responses from 106 organizations that have at least 500 employees and significant business operations in more than one country. Ninety-three percent of the participating companies are based in North America and manage, on average, 25 health programs and operate in 20 countries around the world.

About the Survey


The survey, conducted online from November 19 through December 23, 2009, included human resource and health and wellness executives in North America and Asia. The survey included 106 participating organizations that had at least 500 employees and significant business operations in more than one country to qualify. Ninety-three percent of the participating companies are based in North America. All percentages cited are based on 106 respondents unless otherwise specified.


This information is provided to subscribers, friends, faculty, students and alumni of the School of Industrial & Labor Relations (ILR). It is a service of the Institute for Workplace Studies (IWS) in New York City. Stuart Basefsky is responsible for the selection of the contents which is intended to keep researchers, companies, workers, and governments aware of the latest information related to ILR disciplines as it becomes available for the purposes of research, understanding and debate. The content does not reflect the opinions or positions of Cornell University, the School of Industrial & Labor Relations, or that of Mr. Basefsky and should not be construed as such. The service is unique in that it provides the original source documentation, via links, behind the news and research of the day. Use of the information provided is unrestricted. However, it is requested that users acknowledge that the information was found via the IWS Documented News Service.

Stuart Basefsky                   
Director, IWS News Bureau                
Institute for Workplace Studies 
Cornell/ILR School                        
16 E. 34th Street, 4th Floor             
New York, NY 10016                        
Telephone: (607) 255-2703                
Fax: (607) 255-9641                       



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