Vermont Car Dealers Help to Quantify the Benefits of Naturopathic CareVermont Car Dealers Help to Quantify the Benefits of Naturopathic Care
Study quantifies clinical and financial benefits of Naturopathic care
(PORTLAND, OR) – August 9, 2006 – The Vermont Automobile Dealers Association (VADA) is a statewide trade association representing new and used car dealers in the Green Mountain state. Founded more than 60 years ago, it represents 171 business members and the VADA-sponsored health insurance trust covers some 2300 individuals.
In 2004, healthcare spending in the state was estimated at $3.0 billion for the year. At about the same time, a naturopathic physician, Bernie Noe, ND and VADA found themselves on opposite sides of a state healthcare bill, with Noe arguing the measure would not raise costs, and industry executives claiming it would. After lawmakers adjourned, VADA hired Noe to develop and implement an employee wellness program and test his theory. Noe has demonstrated, and VADA agrees, that the clinical and economic benefits of workplace interventions using a naturopath can be significant.
Bernie Noe, ND, is President of Green Mountain Wellness Solutions, Montpelier, VT. He will present the results of his workplace intervention program at the 21st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (http://www.Naturopathic.org). The meeting is being held at the Oregon Convention Center, Portland, OR from August 9-12, 2006.
Between January and April 2005 Noe and his staff conducted biometric screenings (height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) of 1182 employees at 77 VADA member locations throughout Vermont. Each participant received a brochure explaining the results onsite. They were also asked to complete a health risk appraisal (HRA), which later allowed Noe and his colleagues to assess the individual’s diet, exercise, and lifestyle behaviors as well as risk for or presence of chronic diseases. Using a Stanford Presenteeism Scale, they also measured each participant’s level of presenteeism (i.e., how productive the individual was at work when present).
Those who completed the HRA and provided a mailing address were sent an Individual Health Report (IHR). The IHR summarized the findings from both the biometric screening and the HRA. Noe, an electrical engineer before becoming a naturopathic physician, used software he had developed to identify the highest health risks among the screened population. The software included an “artificial intelligence” component he had developed based on clinical guidelines, best practices, and his own clinical knowledge. Those identified as having the greatest risk received very detailed recommendations about their condition(s) and recommendations for low-tech strategies such as diet, lifestyle and exercise to help manage and reduce the condition.
Noe created a monthly wellness newsletter that all employees received at work. It included tips for managing stress and reducing the risk of a heart attack.
The Pedometer Program
To help employees increase physical activity and to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, Noe also created a pedometer challenge. Employees received free pedometers, and prizes and other incentives were used for motivation. More than 35 dealerships participated.
At the end of the challenge, employees had clocked more than 732 million steps over a 12-week period. The average number of steps per participant increased from 10,622 per day in the beginning to 11,728 per day at the challenge’s end.
Participants who answered surveys reported a variety of benefits, including: improved energy (63 percent), better sleep (55 percent), improved mood (55 percent), reduced stress (50 percent), weight loss (42 percent) and lower blood pressure (34 percent).
One year later, in 2006, Noe conducted another health screening for VADA employees. The event was attended by 848 employees held at 60 locations and again included the biometric screening and HRA. In analyzing the screening information for the period 2006 vs. 2005, Noe found:
Incidence of high blood pressure decreased by 36 percent;
Multiple risks for cardiovascular disease decreased by 35 percent;
High-risk stress decreased by 24 percent; physical inactivity decreased 21 percent; high cholesterol decreased 17 percent; and obesity decreased by 15 percent.
Noe also found significant financial savings:
Type of Savings Net Savings 2006 vs. 2005 Return on Investment
Direct healthcare savings
4.6 to 1
Indirect healthcare savings
16.5 to 1
Combined direct and indirect savings
21.1 to 1
On May 18, 2006 Noe and VADA were presented the Work Site Wellness, Physical Fitness and Sports Gold Award by Vermont Governor James H. Douglas in recognition of the program.
Working With Naturopaths for Disease Management
Based on the financial and clinical results Noe found, VADA approved a second phase. Recognizing that high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease were VADA’s most costly employee health conditions, Noe proposed that individuals with these conditions be allowed to receive care from a naturopathic physician. In July 2006 the pilot program – set up as an outcomes study – was implemented with a network of 15 participating naturopathic physicians. Individuals with certain conditions who wish to do so will now be treated by a naturopathic physician.
Creating a statewide network of naturopathic physicians to treat patients with chronic diseases is groundbreaking, but to Noe such a pairing is obvious. Noe says that naturopathic physicians are often better than their medical physician counterparts in working with a patient on goal setting, nutritional counseling, focusing on wellness rather than illness, and viewing clinical decision making as a joint effort.
He expects that the employer will also benefit from the patient/naturopath pairing. For example, when employees can manage their disease with diet and/or physical activity or a supplement instead of a drug, employer healthcare costs are reduced. Employees also become healthier, experience less absenteeism, and thus increase their productivity.
Naturopathic Care Outcomes for Chronic Disease: Results In 2007
Noe applauds VADA for trying a new approach to increasing employee health and at the same time reducing healthcare costs. He adds, “I’m excited to be working with VADA to understand the impact that the whole-person naturopathic approach will have on the chronic diseases we have identified. Next year, when the results are released, we should know more about whether naturopathic physician care can be a frontline choice for certain chronic disorders.”
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) was founded in 1985 to provide alternative methods for healing human diseases and disorders than have been traditionally offered in the United States. Members of the AANP must have graduated from one of North America’s six accredited graduate schools of naturopathic medicine.
Editor’s Note: To schedule an interview with Dr. Noe, please contact Donna Krupa at 703.967.2751; firstname.lastname@example.org; or call the AANP newsroom at 503-963-5740. For more information about naturopathic physicians, log on to http://www.naturopathic.org/.