What Is a Health Risk Assessment?
February 19, 2020 / Employee Wellbeing Best Practices
A health risk assessment, or an HRA, analyzes self-reported data about a person’s lifestyle, behaviors and demographics to give them a better understanding of their health and risk factors for illness. These surveys usually take no longer than 15 minutes to complete but can be incredibly eye-opening for the survey-taker. Health risk assessments are often provided by employers or health plans as part of a wellbeing program — and for good reason. HRAs can bring awareness to a person’s health and identify opportunities for crucial preventive care. Not only that, they can boost engagement in wellbeing programs and other health benefits.
What’s Covered in a Health Risk Assessment?
A range of factors can play a role in a person’s health, and some are more obvious than others. That’s why HRAs assess health risks based on holistic data. They often include questions about:
- Lifestyle and behaviors
- Overall physical health
- Nutrition and diet
- Mental health
- Amount and quality of sleep
- Health measurements like blood pressure and cholesterol
The way you live your life and the choices you make are connected to your health on a surface level, but what do demographics have to do with personal health? According to Dr. Batman, uncontrollable factors, or social determinants of health, like age, gender or where you were born, can actually impact 70% of your overall health and wellbeing. Many of us may not stop to ask how our hometown impacts our health, so HRAs can provide that necessary insight.
What are the Benefits of a Health Risk Assessment?
Anyone can benefit from an HRA, even if there aren’t any health issues to discover. You don’t have to have a health condition to be stressed about your health. Also, more Americans worry about healthcare than the environment or the economy. Knowing your risks and understanding your health can bring peace of mind.
Giving people a deeper understanding of their health also provides a slew of other benefits. HRA reports can be shared with a healthcare provider to improve the quality of care. It can also motivate people to engage in their health and take action to improve it. Armed with the right information, it’s easier to find health or wellness programs that fit their interests or unique needs.
Most importantly, when HRAs are distributed in conjunction with a wellbeing program, people are provided with follow-up information and care. For example, Virgin Pulse health coaches offer a Next Steps Consult® to help people understand their results and what types of things they can do to improve. This comes at the opportune time — once someone takes an HRA they may have questions about their results, might be coping with the discovery of a more serious underlying health issue or that they’re at risk for a condition. Having access to a health coach at this moment helps connect people to the right care, get their health on track sooner and direct them to other resources offered through their wellbeing program.
Why HRAs Should be a Part of Your Wellbeing Program Strategy
A health risk assessment can change lives, but what do they do for the employer or health plan that provided it?
First, it’s important to note that it’s illegal for an employer or insurer to discriminate against anyone based on the results of an HRA. The information that’s collected is confidential and protected by rigorous health privacy laws.
What can be used is anonymized and aggregated data. This can provide critical insight into the health of your population. You can learn what health risks are most prevalent, what areas people need the most help in and tailor your health and wellness benefits accordingly. HRAs also offer an opportunity to stop chronic conditions before they start. If your population is struggling with poor diets, obesity and lack of exercise, it’s likely that many may be more at risk for developing pre-diabetes. Organizations can offer tailored programs such as healthy food options in the workplace, lunch and learns or fitness incentives to inspire healthy behavior change and help people reduce their risk.
Help Your People Get and Stay Healthy
HRAs enable people to take charge of their health. When paired with the right resources, they can jumpstart healthy behavior change, boost engagement in wellbeing programs or health benefits and prevent costly chronic conditions. Not to mention — taking a genuine interest in your peoples’ health and providing them with the best tools is a sign of compassion that won’t go unnoticed.