Welcome to Hong Kong Wellness

Wellness has become topical, with the launch of programs in Hong Kong by large Life insurance companies such as AIA with their Vitality program and Manulife with the Move program HR departments are starting to look at Wellness and what has been done elsewhere.

A quick look at the internet will tell you that many operators in this space still see Wellness as Spa based, primarily relaxation and mental health related. There are few “specialists” in this space and those that exist such as Discovery and Road to Health are inexperienced in the Asian markets and lacking in local partner contacts.

In the USA Wellness has become a huge business where employers are required by law to provide assistance to employees in being healthier, as well as a keen focus on the rising cost of health care and thus medical insurance. Whilst Hong Kong does not have the legal requirements of the United States, health care costs are high and rising especially for ex-patriots who may not be able to access the public health care system.

So what is Wellness?

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Wellness is about improving the health and wellbeing of Employees, it is about encouraging them to understand where they are in terms of their health through the use of tools such as Health Risk Assessments (HRAs) and physical screening to understand the impact of their lifestyle choices on their long term health.

We all know that smoking is a killer but in all likelihood 10% or more of our workforce is smoking even in Hong Kong (dependent on industry this may be significantly higher).

Many employees are now overweight. The Hong Kong government recommendation for BMI is 18-23 as opposed to the more usual Western recommendation of 18-25. In other words an Asian employee with an acceptable body mass by western standards may be at risk of lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer or heart attacks.

These lifestyle diseases now cause approximately 62% of all deaths globally. We are killing ourselves – and yet this in itself is not the issue as an employer. Nobody gets sick and dies on the same day. These lifestyle diseases slow us down, increase our likelihood of taking sick days, increase the incidents of hospitalization, reduce employee effectiveness and increase costs in terms of insurance and temporary staff.

Having identified the risk factors, how do we get employees to make changes to their lifestyle that will improve their personal outcomes and as a whole improve the employers bottom line? In many cases identifying the problem is enough to trigger meaningful weight loss, or an increase in physical activity. Unfortunately like smoking cessation and the use of long term medications making these gains sustainable and long term is the real challenge.