Prevention is the Cure

Company risk management strategies can encompass planning for improbable events but can also be organisationally disconnected. For example, you may have a best practice risk management system in place but how prepared are you for the actual impact of a workplace death, a terminal illness or a premature retirement due to ill health within your executive team? Disability research shows that 1 man in 4 retires prematurely due to ill health.

The latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare states that more than 30% of all the ill health, disability and premature death that occurs in Australia can be attributed to modifiable health risk factors. This means that 30% of the ill health, disability and premature death that occurs in Australia is potentially preventable (1).

Presently in Australia, more than 60% of the adult population are classified as overweight or obese, cancer and cardiovascular disease contribute the greatest disease burden, coronary heart disease causes the largest number of 'lost years' through death among men aged less than 75 years and breast cancer causes the most among women (1).

Change what you can

Low fruit and vegetable consumption, lack of physical activity, smoking, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, high blood pressure and high cholesterol have all been identified as health risk factors that are associated with an increased risk of chronic disease however chronic disease onset may be prevented or attenuated with timely lifestyle changes.

A recent review published in the American Heart Journal about the impact of combined health risk factors on cardiovascular disease mortality showed that a minimum of 2 out of 5 positive health risk factors (cardio respiratory fitness, physical activity, smoking status, alcohol consumption and body mass index) were required to reduce the risk of CVD mortality by ~30%. The combination of high cardio respiratory fitness, not currently smoking and normal BMI (18.5-24.9) was of most clinical importance reducing the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease by ~60% (2).

 

 

A recent review published in the American Heart Journal about the impact of combined health risk factors on cardiovascular disease mortality showed that a minimum of 2 out of 5 positive health risk factors (cardio respiratory fitness, physical activity, smoking status, alcohol consumption and body mass index) were required to reduce the risk of CVD mortality by ~30%. The combination of high cardio respiratory fitness, not currently smoking and normal BMI (18.5-24.9) was of most clinical importance reducing the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease by ~60% (2).

The results of the INTERSTROKE study published in the Lancet in 2010 identified 10 health risk factors that explained 90% of stroke risk. Hypertension (high blood pressure) was the most dangerous risk factor. A history of hypertension was associated with a greater than 2.5 fold increased risk of stroke (3). Along with hypertension, current smoking, abdominal obesity, diet, and physical activity accounted for 80% of the global risk of stroke (3).

The latest expert report from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute of Cancer Research presents a comprehensive overview of the strength of the evidence linking different aspects of diet, physical activity level and body weight to the risk of specific cancer types. Click here to view a matrix causally relating food, nutrition and physical activity to the risk of reviewed cancer sites including the most commonly diagnosed Australian National Health Priority Area cancers prostate, breast and colorectal (4)

How's Your Company Snapshot?

Last month I discussed the value proposition associated with the improvement of executive health risk status. Executive Health Evaluations identify health risk factors and facilitate lifestyle changes that improve health risk status. Annual attendance has been shown to be positively associated with the achievement of acceptable levels of health risk factors when compared to non attendees.

If you believe that your executive team reflects a snapshot of the population statistics for health risk factors, developing a risk prevention strategy to improve executive health could be an appropriate response.

How prepared is your business for an "improbable event" and what is the potential for your organisation to prevent its occurrence?

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2010. Australia's Health 2010 (PDF download 374kb). www.aihw.gov.au
  2. Mitchell, J.A. (2010) The impact of combined health factors on cardiovascular disease mortality (PDF download 153kb). American Heart Journal. 160(1) 102-108
  3. Tu J.V. (2010) Reducing the global burden of stroke: INTERSTROKE (PDF download 73kb). Lancet. 376(9735) 74-75
  4. WCRF/AICR Expert Report. (2009) Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective (PDF download 1,128kb) . www.dietandcancerreport.org

Low fruit and vegetable consumption, lack of physical activity, smoking, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, high blood pressure and high cholesterol have all been identified as health risk factors that are associated with an increased risk of chronic disease however chronic disease onset may be prevented or attenuated with timely lifestyle changes.v