A health assessment is primarily a screening tool. These quick and convenient questionnaires gather information about individual’s health, lifestyle, and demographics in order to provide a holistic view of their overall health.
Health risk assessments (also called an HRA or simply a health assessment) analyze self-reported data about a person’s lifestyle, behaviors and demographics to give them a better understanding of their health and risk factors for illness. The goal is identify potential health and wellness concerns early, enabling people or companies can make improvement plans for the future.
Why are health risk assessments important?
An assessment can bring deeper awareness to a person’s health and lifestyle, and provide opportunities for crucial preventive care. These surveys usually take 15-30 minutes to complete. The questions and topics cover basic information, but can be incredibly eye-opening in the quest for better health and qualify of life.
Over half of all deaths before age 65 can now be attributed to lifestyle factors. Understanding how our lifestyles contribute to health risks can help us evaluate our choices and make better decisions to support live a happier, healthier life.
For employers, offering a health risk assessment shows your employees that you care about their health and wellbeing. The resulting data also provides a high-level view of how employees are doing and can highlight areas to improve.
What’s covered in a health risk assessment?
Health risk assessments frequently consist of an extended questionnaire, featuring somewhere between 50-75 questions. A range of factors can play a role in a person’s health, and some are more obvious than others.
Most assessments capture self-reported information relating to:
- Demographic characteristics: age, sex, race, ethnicity, geographic location
- Lifestyle: exercise, smoking, alcohol intake, diet
- Medical history: personal and family conditions
- Physiological data: weight, height, blood pressure, cholesterol
- Attitude: happiness, willingness to change behaviors, etc
The way you live your life and the choices you make are connected to your health on a surface level. Experts say that social determinants of health, like age, gender or where you were born, can actually impact 70% of your overall health and wellbeing.
That’s why HRAs assess many factors beyond biometric screening data. Biometric testing is often provided alongside an HRA in a wellness program.
The assessment questions often include a scale that asks you to rank answers, rather than a simple yes or no. Consider this sample question: “How would you describe your current level of physical activity? Very active, somewhat active, not very active, not active at all, prefer not to say.”
What happens after the assessment?
After the assessment, participants will receive a personalized report with their results.
Many will also receive some kind of health score, although there is little consistency between vendors or systems. (Note: Each assessment platform is different, so if you have questions about results, be sure to ask your administrator or assessment provider!)
After the assessment, employees may also receive personalized recommendations to help them improve their health and avoid complications from their risk factors. The results of these assessments and screenings should be discussed with a doctor.
The assessment doesn’t end there, though. With an employer-sponsored program, administrators see company-wide reports of aggregated employee health data.
Employers can then use that information to:
- improve or update health benefits
- invest in necessary disease management programs
- offer personalized assistance or health coaching to certain employee groups
- plan for worksite wellness initiatives that are relevant to employee interests and needs
How are other employers handling health assessments?
Assessments are also becoming a standard practice among companies with more than 200 employees! However, they’re also gaining in popularity among smaller companies as vendors make this benefits more affordable and user-friendly.
Some interesting stats:
- 37% of small businesses (3-199 workers) and 62% (200+) of large businesses provide a health risk assessment
- 51% of large employers offer incentives to complete with a health risk assessment
- 50% of large employers offer a biometric screening
As part of a broader program to engage employees in their health, shape lifestyle choices, and promote prevention, HRAs can be enormously effective.