As the focus on wellness and preventative care becomes the norm in order to reduce healthcare costs, colleges and universities can also get involved by promoting health education courses that are already available on campus. Post-secondary institutions whose primary mission is to graduate students, who are workforce ready, should include a wellness component within the course of study. Many of the people investing in wellness education programs are employers seeking to reduce their own healthcare expenses for employees. Employers invest in wellness programs for their employees to boost morale and increase productivity. Workplace wellness programs not only help to increase productivity and ultimately affect a company’s revenue, but the programs also help to cut long-term healthcare costs for employers that provide healthcare benefits. One study indicated that for every $1.00 spent on wellness programs, healthcare costs are reduced by $3.37. In addition the cost of absenteeism is reduced by $2.73 for every $1.00 spent; with over 130 million individuals in the workforce, wellness programs can save employers a significant amount of money each year (Baicker et. al, 2010).
Many post-secondary institutions engage directly with business leaders and community organizations to create relevant programs based on the labor needs of the community. Health education courses can play an important role in helping to prepare students for the workforce because the classes can be used as a form of preventative care. Most health education courses are already offered on campus as part of the general curriculum requirements or as an elective option. Providing health education courses as part of a workforce readiness model can help employers save more money in addition to what they are already spending to create their own wellness programs. Offering a unique set of courses tailored to the needs of the employer that include a wellness component also provides post-secondary institutions with a unique selling point for job training programs.
Health education courses not only act as a form of preventative care, but the courses also help to promote critical thinking, health advocacy, communication skills, self-care, build self-esteem, promote self-awareness, goal setting, civic engagement, health literacy, self-efficacy, decision-making, and problem solving skills. The curriculum in health education courses provides students with diverse learning experiences on a variety of topics such as wellness as a lifestyle, stress management, mental health, sexual and reproductive health, relationship dynamics, communication skills, infection control, environmental health, and injury prevention. In addition, health education courses teach students about drug and alcohol abuse as well as prevention strategies. Currently drug and alcohol abuse costs employers $276 billion dollars a year in lost productivity (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009). Health education courses can play a vital role in teaching students the necessary skills to function in the workplace and in everyday life.
Baicker, K. et. al. (2010). Workplace wellness programs can generate savings. Health Aff.2010;29:304-311.
US Department of Health and Human Services. (2009). 14 short employer cost savings briefs. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.