Aetna (NYSE: AET) today announced the launch of "Metabolic Health in Small Bytes" and the "Metabolic Health Advisor." The two new components can help people control the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome.
“This all inclusive approach gives employers a unique option to help their employees live healthier, while also helping to reduce their organization's health care costs.”
Affecting one in four adults in the U.S., metabolic syndrome is one of the fastest growing health issues. Metabolic Syndrome is a grouping of five risk factors - large waist size, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL ('good') cholesterol and high blood sugar - that may occur together. An adult with three or more of these risk factors is twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes as a person who does not have metabolic syndrome. In addition, health care costs go up 25 percent with each added risk factor.
Metabolic Health in Small Bytes is an evidence-based, online program that was part of a recent Aetna research study with Duke Diet and Fitness, Duke Integrative Medicine and eMindful. The study measured the effectiveness of an integrative (physiologic and mind-body focused) clinical weight management program with variations on program delivery. In 2011, more than 600 Aetna employees participated in the 10-week study and were randomly assigned to one of five groups.
Early Aetna data showed favorable results for weight loss and stress reduction with employees who participated in any of the weekly Metabolic Health in Small Bytes groups. These participants also showed improvements in physical activity and productivity. Full results of the pilot program will be available later this year after the data is studied by Duke academicians and Aetna.
"We already have a number of programs that help identify members with metabolic syndrome and direct them to resources that can help, like lifestyle coaching and disease management programs. Our new metabolic syndrome solutions will help educate members on the issue, offer programs to support them and provide incentive opportunities to encourage healthy behaviors," said Susan Kosman, R.N., chief nursing officer for Aetna. "This all inclusive approach gives employers a unique option to help their employees live healthier, while also helping to reduce their organization's health care costs."
Program Based on Demonstrated Results
Metabolic Health in Small Bytes uses a virtual classroom technology, where participants can interact with each other and the instructor. All of the program instructors have completed a program outlined by lead program developer Ruth Wolever, PhD from Duke Diet and Fitness Center and Duke Integrative Medicine. Using mindfulness techniques from the program, participants learn practices they can use to combat the root causes of obesity. The program's goal is to help participants better understand their emotional state, enhance their knowledge of how to improve exercise and nutrition, and access internal motivation to do so.
Employers can choose a program option with monthly classes for employees, a more intensive option with weekly classes, or a combined approach.
Metabolic Health in Small Bytes expands Aetna's use of mindfulness techniques in wellness programs. Aetna previously worked with Wolever at Duke Integrative Medicine and eMindful to test two mind-body stress reductions programs - Mindfulness at Work™ (mindfulness meditation) and Viniyoga Stress Reduction (therapeutic Viniyoga). Available to commercial employers, these two programs have been demonstrated to help participants significantly reduce their perceived stress levels while improving their ability to respond to stress both mentally and physically.
Metabolic Health Advisor
Many people may not be aware that they have Metabolic Syndrome. Aetna created "ALEX®" - the interactive Metabolic Health Advisor - to help encourage members to receive a screening test for this condition. The tool can also help members better understand the results of the test and ways they can lower their risk factors.
ALEX, a virtual host, asks questions in a friendly and conversational manner. Based on the responses, he provides personalized input on what changes will benefit that individual the most. The suggested changes are based on information from Aetna medical directors, nurses, health coaches and dieticians.
The Jellyvision Lab helped create the Metabolic Health Advisor. Aetna worked with the Jellyvision Lab previously to create "David," the Aetna Benefits AdvisorSM. More than 99 percent of Aetna members who used David describe him as being helpful in picking their benefits. David has also received the top national award from the Center for Plain Language the past two years.
Both new metabolic syndrome programs are available to Aetna's commercial customers in National Accounts, Middle Market, and Public and Labor segments.