Large employers plan to invest millions in wellness programs to improve employee health, why exercise prevents colon cancer and more.

Measles to surpass U.S. record

1. Measles continues to spread with 71 new cases reported the week ending April 19. Sixty-eight of the new infections happened in New York.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 626 cases so far this year. Public health officials predict the number of cases this year will likely surpass the 667 cases reported in 2014. The CDC says 2014 was the worst year for measles since the year 2000, when the organization announced measles had been eradicated.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is encouraging the American public to get the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine, stating the vaccine is safe and 97 percent effective against the virus.

2. Big companies offer big wellness benefits

Large employers across the country are expected to spend an average of $3.6 million on wellness programs in 2019 to support healthier and more productive employees, according to a survey from National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments. Survey findings revealed that employers will offer 40 percent of their wellness budgets as financial incentives to their employees and their spouses. Incentives include reductions in health plan premiums and contributions to health savings accounts. Employers will also continue to offer physical health programs as well as increase social and behavioral programs.

“As more employers recognize the relationship between employee well-being and productivity, well-being programs have taken on an increasingly meaningful role in employers’ business strategies,” said Robert Kennedy, senior vice president, Fidelity Workplace Consulting. “However, as the benefits landscape continues to evolve, employers need to ensure they are designing their programs to meet the changing needs of their workforce.”

3. Breakfast curbs stroke risk

Don’t skip breakfast. If you do, you may raise your stroke risk. People who skipped breakfast had a 59 percent increased heart disease risk and more than triple the stroke risk, reported a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“Many studies have shown that skipping breakfast is related to a higher risk of diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol,” said the lead author, Wei Bao,MD, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa, in a New York Times article. “Our study suggests that eating breakfast could be a simple way to promote cardiovascular health.”

4. Humana addresses SDOH with Bold Goal campaign

Humana continues its commitment to addressing the social determinants of health (SDOH), thanks to its Bold Goal project. The campaign reported an increased number of healthy days among its Medicare Advantage members based on a four-question survey that helped assess a patient’s physical and mental capacity.

Humana recognizes that SDOH such as lack of transportation, lack of access to nutritious foods and unreliable housing impact the health of individuals with chronic conditions.

“This year’s report reflects our track record of success in managing chronic conditions over time. Given current demographic trends, we expect to see continued demand for a support structure that addresses social needs, along with clinical ones,” said Bruce D. Broussard, Humana’s president and CEO.

5. Exercise offers protection against colon cancer

Physical activity guards against colon cancer, suggests a study published in The Journal of Physiology. We know exercise speeds the elimination of waste through the intestines. But the small study out of Brisbane, Australia, discovered another link—inflammatory markers in study participants’ bloodstream post-workout.

Inflammation slows cell growth and may disrupt the spread of tumor cells. Researchers recommend people living with cancer and cancer survivors exercise regularly. However, scientists say they cannot determine how intense or prolonged exercise should be to provide a benefit.

“We would recommend that exercise be embedded as part of standard practice for people living with and beyond cancer,” said physiologist Tina Skinner, the study’s senior author.

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