The saying goes “anything catching on in California, comes to Canada sooner or later”.
That is just one reason we should pay attention to the Great American Wellness Experiment, most recently described by the Wall Street Journal.
Let me summarize some of its key developments, because there are some real lessons and implications for Canadian dentistry:
- Employers are becoming very proactive to contain the rising costs of chronic diseases. The passive stance of offering traditional benefits without sticks and carrots to improve health seeking behaviour, seems no longer to be sustainable. Employers have to get control of their healthcare costs.
- We don’t really know (yet) what works to modify the behaviours which give rise to chronic diseases — but that is not stopping employers from trying this and that. My guess is that in the next 5 years after considerable experimentation, these wellness programs will sort out how best to manage obesity, diabetes, hypertension, rheumatoid disorders and even mental health. Don’t bet against the American corporation finding ways of containing costs by improving employee behaviour.
Notably, amongst the chronic diseases driving the health benefit costs of Canadian employers, dental decay ranks in the top 3 in terms of total costs and growth rate.
Like other chronic diseases, it is stimulated by health-risk behaviour which is hard to change.
But dental decay, at its origins, is a bacterial infection. So, unlike some other chronic diseases, it has a clear pathway to modification.
And you can bet that American employers and Canadian employers are interested in that.