Wash your hands often, especially when entering or leaving public places or touching surfaces. Cleaning your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds can be the best way to remove germs. When that’s not possible, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
4. Stay active.
Exercise can help alleviate stress and support your immune system — and physical activity doesn’t have to be intense to make a difference. To get started, you can try taking a daily walk or practicing gentle yoga poses.
5. Focus more on nutrition.
A healthy diet supports a healthy immune system. In addition to the supplements, you may already take, try to eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals, such as:
Cleveland Clinic: We’re now several months into the coronavirus pandemic, and we’re also fast-approaching peak season for yet another viral illness: influenza. Infectious disease specialist Kristin Englund, MD, explains the differences between COVID-19 and the flu, and shares steps we can all take to help us stay healthy this flu season.
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As we watch, wait and see the evolution of this Corona Virus outbreak, it is important that employers plan. This is not a situation where you want to panic should this hit your business.
What we know about the virus
Coronaviruses are an extremely common cause of colds and other upper respiratory infections. The symptoms can include a cough, possibly with a fever and shortness of breath. There are some early reports of non-respiratory symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Many people recover within a few days. However, some people — especially the very young, elderly, or people who have a weakened immune system — may develop a more serious infection, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
Should you worry about catching this virus?
Unless you’ve been in close contact with someone who has the coronavirus — right now, this typically means a traveler from Wuhan, China who actually has the virus — you’re likely to be safe. In the US, for example, all five cases of the virus were recent travelers to Wuhan. The CDC maintains the risk is low to Americans, however, “we need to be preparing as if this is a pandemic, but I continue to hope that it is not,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
How can I protect myself?
Much like prevention of the spread of any other infectious disease, basic hygiene principles are key to curbing the spread of this virus.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Be mindful of:
Employee wellbeing. Monitor updates from public health officials and governments and keep employees informed and educated about the outbreak and any steps being taken to safeguard their health. Encourage employees to stay home when sick and telecommute if the outbreak worsens.
Travel policies. As of Monday, January 27th, the CDC has issued a stronger warning about travel, urging Americans to reconsider travel anywhere in China, issuing a stronger level 4 warning for the specific province where Wuhan is located, stating: “Do not travel to Hubei province, China” due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges people to seek medical care right away if they had traveled to Wuhan in the past two weeks and develop a fever, cough or trouble breathing. It says older adults and people with underlying health conditions may be most at risk for severe illness from the virus.
Potential supply chain interruption. Identify operational and/or revenue impacts from potential disruptions to key suppliers and vendors. Also consider the possibility of sourcing good or parts from alternative suppliers.
Insurance coverage. Review insurance policies, prepare for potential claims, and consult your broker if you have questions.
SHRM Webcast: Coronavirus: Legal and Workplace Implications Thursday, March @ 2PM ET. Get the facts. Lead your organization’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Learn the proper steps to take to keep your workforce safe, implications of federal laws and more. You must be an active SHRM member to attend.
Please contact us for further information or if you need assistance creating a workable plan.
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Immunizations are one of the top ten public health accomplishments of the twentieth century according to the CDCP (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).
Talk with your health care provider, not just about childhood vaccines, but for adults also. This knowledge may help prevent illness and outbreaks due to vaccine preventable diseases. Vaccines are recommended throughout your lifetime. They are an important step in protecting against serious and sometimes deadly diseases.
Vaccines are proven to protect children from fourteen serious diseases before the age of two. Adolescence from cancer caused by certain types of HPV, young adults from meningitis and people of all ages from flu, as well as, the aging population from various illnesses.
New York State Immunization Requirements for School Entrance:Attendance1 Local States already requires specific vaccines for public school attendance. There is an assistance program offered, by the Pennsylvania department of health, to obtain vaccinations through federally funded “Vaccines for Children”, providing access to immunizations to low income, underinsured children through age 18. Uninsured children regardless of income are eligible for the Children’s health insurance program. Adults are encouraged also to review their immunizations with their physician, also checked with your individual insurance plan for coverage of adult immunizations, for the specific vaccines covered under your plan.
Please note: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional. To schedule your Employer day of wellness & flu vaccinations call us (855) 667-4621.
Employers incentivizing fitness by lowering lower insurance premiums in exchange for wearing fitness tracking bracelets. Bloomberg reports that BP Plc drive for occupational wellness offered an employee’s spouse the option “to wear a fitness-tracking bracelet from FitBit Inc. to earn points toward cheaper health insurance,” which is “an example of how companies, facing rising health expenses, are increasingly buying or subsidizing fitness-tracking devices to encourage employees and their dependents to be more fit.
” The article notes that UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH), Humana Inc. (HUM), Cigna Corp. (CI) and Highmark Inc. have developed similar programs, in which “consumers wear the device and the activity data is uploaded to an online system so it can be verified to give a person their reward.” The article notes, however, that “the moves also let employers and insurers gather more data about people’s lives, raising questions from privacy advocates,” one of whom notes that “when financial incentives are involved, Dixon said it forces employees’ hands and narrows the question of whether or not they should participate.”
Wear This Device So the Boss Knows You’re Losing Weight
To fight rising medical costs, oil company BP Plc (BP) last year offered Cory Slagle — a 260-pound former football lineman — an unusual way to trim $1,200 from his annual insurance bill.
One option was to wear a fitness-tracking bracelet from Fitbit Inc. to earn points toward cheaper health insurance. With the gadget, the 51-year-old walked more than 1 million steps over several months, wirelessly logging the activity on the device. Twelve months later, Slagle has added to his new exercise regimen by trading burgers for salads and soda for water, dropping 70 pounds (31.8 kilograms) and 10 pant sizes in the process.
“I can see my toes now,” said Slagle, a middle-school administrator whose wife, Kristi, works for BP in Houston. The company’s program, he said, is “pushing me to get off the couch and make the right decisions.”
Slagle’s wife is thrilled with his thinner frame — as is BP. His once-high blood pressure and cholesterol are now in a normal range, significantly lowering BP’s risk of covering treatments related to heart trouble or other medical problems.
Slagle’s experience is an example of how companies, facing rising health expenses, are increasingly buying or subsidizing fitness-tracking devices to encourage employees and their dependents to be more fit. The tactic may reduce corporate health-care costs by encouraging healthier lifestyles, even as companies must overcome a creepy factor and concerns from privacy advocates that employers are prying too deeply into workers’ personal lives.
Apart from BP, insurers includingUnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH),Humana Inc. (HUM), Cigna Corp. (CI) and Highmark Inc. have also created programs to integrate wearable gadgets into their policies. The aim is to get people more invested in taking care of themselves. Consumers wear the device and the activity data is uploaded to an online system so it can be verified to give a person their reward.
“What employers want is the person to take an active role in their health,” said Dee Brock, who has incorporated wearable devices into wellness programs for Pittsburgh-based HighMark.
The adoption of wearable devices by companies and insurers is increasing as spending on corporate wellness incentives has doubled to $594 per employee since 2009, according to a study by Fidelity Investments and National Business Group on Health. Technology is creating new forms of wellness programs to measure whether employees are making improvements, similar to a trend in the car-insurance industry where drivers who put a monitoring sensor on their vehicle can earn lower rates based on how well they are driving, instead of their driving history.
Yet the moves also let employers and insurers gather more data about people’s lives, raising questions from privacy advocates. Wearable gadgets are advancing beyond tracking steps, with sensors to monitor heart rates, glucose levels, body temperature and other functions.
“The focus on preventive health at the expense of privacy is dangerous,” said Pam Dixon, founder of the World Privacy Forum in San Diego, which focuses on health privacy issues. “Right now it’s tracking steps per day, and the reach isn’t that far with these devices, but in time it will be quite sophisticated.”
When financial incentives are involved, Dixon said it forces employees’ hands and narrows the question of whether or not they should participate. The gathering of health data also opens the door for people to eventually be charged more or less based on the information, she said.
These are among the ethical questions still to be addressed about the appropriateness of companies tracking the physical activity of employees, said Harry Wang, a researcher for Parks Associates who has been studying the market. With wearable devices, collecting more sensitive information is likely to bring tougher government oversight, he said.
“There will be high levels of privacy, security and compliance requirements,” Wang said. “There will be high expectations from consumers about how the data will be used.”
Companies and insurers said they protect the privacy of people using wearable gadgets, and comply with federal laws that prevent employers from seeing certain health information about employees without consent. The wearable programs are voluntary and often administered by third-party vendors like StayWell, which works with BP.
As part of the BP program, employees who use a Fitbit to log 1 million steps earn half of the 1,000 points needed each year to qualify for lower co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket health expenses. BP bought 25,000 Fitbit devices for North American employees, including those at refineries and drilling rigs. Points can also be earned by getting an annual physical, taking an online health class and other initiatives.
“We think the device is easy to use, gets people aware of how little they are walking and helps trigger people to get active,” said Karl Dalal, director of health and wellness benefits at BP. “BP doesn’t see any of the data except in the aggregate.”
The market for wearable devices is small — about 2 percent of the 1 billion smartphones shipped globally last year — so creating interest from employers and insurance companies is key to growth. Some 22 million fitness-tracking devices will be sold this year, and 66 million by 2018, with about a third coming from corporate-wellness programs, according to Parks Associates. The incentives an employer or insurance company can offer is a way to keep people using the gadget, instead of throwing it in a drawer once the novelty wears off.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the new national health-care law, companies can spend as much as 30 percent of annual insurance premiums on rewards for healthy behavior.
Technology companies are taking note. Apple Inc. (AAPL), which has new health-tracking software called HealthKit that will be released this year and is said to be developing its own wearable device, has talked with UnitedHealth, the biggest U.S. insurer, and Humana, about its health initiatives, executives at the insurance providers said. The companies wouldn’t provide specifics about the conversations. Apple declined to comment.
Fitbit has a sales force dedicated to pitching employers and insurance companies, and touts software to make it easier to log the activity of workers, down to specific individuals if a company wants, said Amy McDonough, who coordinates deals for Fitbit with companies. Other makers of wearable devices, including Jawbone, Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) and iHealth Lab Inc., have also targeted businesses.
Samsung leads the smart wearable-band market, according to a report today from Canalys. The researcher estimated the wearable band market grew almost eightfold in the first half of 2014 from a year ago.
Some employers are encouraging the use of wearables without the gadgets being tied to lower insurance rates. Houston Methodist, owner of a chain of hospitals in the Houston area, got about 6,000 Fitbits this year and is offering employees the chance to win $10,000 if they walk more steps than the company’s top executives. Fitbit said it also works with Time Warner Inc. (TWX) and Autodesk Inc. (ADSK)
“Walking alone isn’t going to beat diabetes, but it’s certainly going to help,” said Marc Boom, chief executive officer of Houston Methodist. “Being more active results in better health. That’s indisputable.”
At Scotty’s Brewhouse in Indianapolis, where the $15 “Big Ass Brewhouse Burger” includes four quarter-pound beef patties and American cheese, owner Scott Wise offers an extra day of vacation for managers at his 11 restaurants who use a Jawbone UP device to log an average of 10,000 steps a day for three months. That has some managers like Brian Winnie exercising more to earn time off for a trip he wants to take to Memphis, Tennessee.
“Outside of work, I picked up riding my bike to add extra steps that way,” Winnie said in an interview.
Despite some early enthusiasm, many companies are waiting to see whether the use of wearables is a fitness fad. No major research has been done that shows the use of these devices leads to lower health-care costs and many employers want to know “if this is something that’s a passing trend or something that has staying power and can have proven results,” said Eric Herbek, who runs digital engagement for Cigna.
The gadgets have been worthwhile for Chris Barbin, CEO of Appirio Inc. in San Francisco. He said about 40 percent of his staff, which numbers around 1,000, participates in a voluntary fitness program that includes uploading their activity with Fitbit.
While health costs weren’t the priority for the program, Barbin said that by sharing the data with the company’s health care provider he negotiated $300,000 off his company’s roughly $5 million in annual insurance costs by showing his staff is getting healthier. He said privacy protections are in place for those who want to keep the data secret. The program has become one of the most popular forums on Appirio’s internal social network, he said.
“We had an initial batch of data about people who had lost weight, and people who had moved from high risk to moderate risk,” he said. “When we could show all that information to our insurer, that’s pretty powerful.”
Kristi Slagle, whose husband slimmed down through BP’s program, isn’t concerned about privacy with the gadgets. She said the program injects more fairness into the system because those who are healthier currently end up shouldering more costs for those who aren’t.
“I like that BP is making people more accountable,” she said.
Try These Natural Tricks to Fall Asleep More Easily
Seeing a physician for help with your sleeping problems? You might want to try complementary medicine as another way to help you get back to restful slumber.
Complementary medicine refers to forms of non-invasive therapies that a patient can use alongside conventional Western medicine. Nearly 40 percent of Americans use this approach for specific conditions or overall well-being, says the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Complementary therapies for insomnia comprise four categories: mind-body therapies, body-based therapies, biologically based therapies and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Here’s a rundown of the four categories and how you can leverage them to get back to sleep:
The mind is a key player when it comes to how easily you fall asleep and stay asleep. This is why people should try mind-body techniques first when they experience insomnia, Dr. Young says.
Examples of mind-body techniques include meditation, hypnosis, guided imagery, tai chi and yoga. These practices can help to calm people’s thoughts and help them to relax. They are particularly helpful for older adults.
Body-based therapies can relax the body enough so that it is ready for sleep. These include massage and acupuncture, as well as energy techniques for stress reduction. Massage benefits everyone from infants to older adults and cancer patients. Acupuncture enhances sleep quality, especially if you’re feeling pain. Energy techniques include reiki, healing touch and therapeutic touch.
Biologically based therapies
Biological supplements aren’t sleeping pills. They help to balance your body’s chemistry and rhythm naturally, and make it easier to fall asleep.
Dr. Young says the most effective and popular biological treatments are:
Magnesium, a mineral supplement
Melatonin, a hormone that plays a role in sleep
I-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is a group of strategies that can help you to fall asleep faster, stay asleep and improve your sleep quality. At the same time, these strategies increase the overall amount of time you sleep. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is effective in the short- and long-term, and has minimal side effects.
Limit the time you spend awake in bed. If you find yourself still awake after 15 to 20 minutes, leave the bedroom and return when you feel tired. You should associate your bedroom only with sleep — not TV, emails from work or worry.
Create a sleep schedule—and stick to it. Wake up at the same time each day, no matter your nightly experience. This will help your body regulate its internal 24-hour sleep-wake cycle, otherwise known as your biological clock or circadian rhythm.
Practice good sleep hygiene. Part of getting good sleep is having healthy habits. Get regular exercise (but not too close to bedtime), develop a pre-bedtime relaxation routine, avoid or limit caffeine, avoid or limit naps to 30 minutes and limit your intake of alcohol.
Study up on sleep. It’s easier to change sleep habits when you know how and why people sleep, and which beliefs, behaviors and outside influences affect your sleep.
Consider cognitive therapy. Five mental processes influence insomnia: worry, selective attention and monitoring, distorted perception of sleep and daytime deficits, unhelpful beliefs about sleep and counterproductive safety behaviors. Cognitive therapy helps you to reverse these mental processes. Cognitive therapy is especially helpful in preventing relapse.
Relax. This is often easier said than done. This is why relaxation training from a sleep psychologist or a professional trained in services such as meditation, guided imagery or hypnosis may help. Results are not immediate, but last a lifetime.
Painful wait times at the doctor’s office… It’s an old story with few exceptions.
As a dad, I have to deal with many of the same issues of parenting that you deal with: sleepless nights , fevers and holding my kids down for shots (My wife did it once, I think, then she promptly retired from this job.). However, waiting at the pediatrician is not something I have to do. So, I can’t truly empathize with you on this one….
Because you guys know me and know I’m not one to defend the status quo…I’m going to go ahead and defend the status quo a little bit. Or, at least, sound like I am (whether I am or not).
Here are some (in my mind) acceptable reasons why wait times are long:
Scheduling – Doctors, pediatricians specifically, are often over-scheduled. We generally come out of school with the same amount of debt as our doctor friends who have entered more “lucrative” specialties. The only way to make up some of the difference (and pay back our loans) is to see more patients. Thus, patients are scheduled closer together. This normally does not cause problems…but stuff happens.
Emergencies – If you have a doctor with hospital privileges (especially one who goes to deliveries), emergencies will happen. Getting called to a C-section can ruin an entire afternoon for a busy pediatrician. Great partners (like the ones I had in Abilene) will try to pick up the slack while you are gone but it is a strain on the whole system. What about other little “emergencies”? The teenager who reveals during their well child exam that they are depressed and suicidal. The 6-year old getting an MRI for headaches that turn out to have been caused by a brain tumor. Yes, I could assign those conversations to someone else by referring to the ER or the specialist, but wouldn’t you want it to be your pediatrician walking you through that?
Here are some (in my mind) unacceptable reasons why wait times are long:
Too Much Time Out-of-Room for the Doctors – I heard a story once about a doctor whose patients complained that his wait times were too long. He in turn complained to his staff that they were too slow. Come to find out, every morning, before he saw any patients, he sat down at his desk and read the entire paper, cover to cover. He had patients waiting 15 minutes completely ready for him to see but was sitting in the back office. 15 minutes might not be terribly inconvenient but that 15 minutes, on a bad day, will turn into 30-45-60 minutes that could have been avoided. Reading the paper may not be much of a temptation these days, but spending time on the computer doing other stuff is huge. I have to make a point not to be on Facebook, Twitter and other social media during patient care time. I do my social media and blogging before patients arrive and at lunch.
Poor Work-Flow in the Office – In Abilene, I had a very hard working MA and LVN (shout out to Nikea and Beth!) that understood how important this issue was to me. There are other ways to know if work-flow is the problem but one thing is certain: if you can’t see your first patient of the day in time, then there’s something wrong.
Chronic Over-Scheduling – While I do understand the issues related to scheduling, I don’t excuse the doctor for always having a schedule such that they run behind every day. Something can be done.
Now, you can read over this and take it however you want, but keep this in mind: you almost always have a choice in medical care. Unless your child needs a specialist for which there is only one in town or you live in such a rural area that there is only one provider, you have a choice. When we make any choice, we prioritize what’s important…someone might choose to see a doctor they love and tolerate the fact that their wait times are longer (but continue to complain on Facebook about it-I get it, it’s ok). Other people might drive more miles to see one they love. The choice still lies in the hands of the parents.
Ultimately, waiting anywhere is hard. Waiting in the doctor’s office is especially hard when you have a sick child, no one slept the night before, and the only appointment available was right in the middle of nap time.
I promise to keep working on those things that I can do in order to shorten your wait time and you can stay tuned for tomorrow’s post: