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Wellness Programs Tackle Number 2 Killer

HR Policies & Procedures
by Stephen Bruce, PhD, PHR

In yesterday’s Advisor, we learned how to knock out the largest source of deaths; today we’ll look at the #2 killer, cancer, and also the ADA issues that wellness programs raise.

About a third of us get cancer and about 20 percent of us die of it, so in theory that makes cancer about half as important as cardiovascular disease, says Dr. W. Smith Chandler. Dr. Chandler is a board certified physician in occupational medicine who is also SPHR-certified.

Actually, though, cardiovascular disease is a little more than twice as important as cancer, because it tends to kill you younger than cancer does.  To help you put cancer and cardiovascular disease in perspective, ponder this: stroke is less deadly than heart attack.  And yet stroke kills more women than breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer combined.  So a lot of people have an exaggerated opinion about cancer risk. 

The good news about cancer is it’s increasingly preventable, curable, or manageable as a chronic disease.  Based on current knowledge, about 75% of cancer is either preventable or curable through early detection, and about 25% of cancer is more hopeless.  But even those cancers are becoming much more treatable as chronic diseases. 

So, 75% of cancer is affected by what you do – either prevention, like not smoking, or cure, like having colonoscopy. Cancer is actually a very optimistic topic if you’re conscientious.  And workplace wellness programs can be very important in helping people to be conscientious about cancer. 

To sum up, effective workplace wellness programs should focus primarily on prevention of illness, decline, and death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Secondarily, they may also address other issues such as adequate sleep, and automotive safety, and prevention of alcoholism, and so on. 

What’s In It for Employers

When you talk to senior management, says Dr. Chandler, take an entirely capitalistic approach and talk about saving and spending money.

The fact is that wellness can make employees more productive and less expensive.  Specifically employers can anticipate small improvements in one or more of the following areas: reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, increased loyalty, increased job satisfaction, and decreased health care costs. 

ADA Hassles? What’s a disability?


What’s a reasonable accommodation? What’s the deal about essential functions? Get ADA answers with our just-updated guide, ADA Compliance: Practical Solutions for HR.


Wellness and the ADA

Since wellness concerns may be linked to disabilities, employers must keep the ADA in mind. The ADA prohibits employers from making medical inquiries or requiring medical examinations unless job related and consistent with business necessity, and it prohibits taking any adverse employment action based on an individual’s disability.

Fortunately, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said that employers may conduct medical examinations and activities that are part of a voluntary wellness and health screening program without violating the ADA.

In designing your program, make sure that individuals with disabilities are offered alternative ways to participate if their disabilities would otherwise prevent their taking part.

ADA compliance—it seems to get tougher, not easier. How about Sears, Roebuck recently agreeing to pay $6.2 million in the single largest settlement for an ADA suit in EEOC history? And it didn’t help on March 24, 2011, when the long-awaited new final ADA regulations were put into place, broadening the scope of who is considered disabled.

Don’t let your organization become the next EEOC target. Learn how to comply with the latest rules and regulations with the ADA Compliance: Practical Solutions for HR manual. It’s your at-a-glance reference for making smart, defensible decisions.

You’ll get plain-English answers to your thorniest ADA compliance questions, including:

  • To what lengths must you go to “reasonably accommodate”?
  • What’s an “undue hardship?”
  • What are the “essential functions” of the job?
  • Who’s “disabled”?
  • How should you alter your workplace policies in light of the new ADA Amendments Act?
  • How can you manage the tricky relationship between ADA, FMLA, and workers’ compensation?
  • When can I inquire about an employee’s disability (and when can’t I)?)

BONUS: When you make this resource part of your reference library, you’ll also get:

  • A comprehensive guide to overcoming hundreds of policy and administration hurdles, using real-world examples and plain English.
  • A quarterly newsletter, which contains all the information you’ll need to know about latest changes .
  • A free CD containing forms, policies, checklists, state-by-state comparison charts, and more

Applicants want accommodation, and employees are next in line. Who’s entitled? Who has a disability? ADA mistakes are expensive. Get your policies and practices in line with new regulations. Go here for information about ADA Compliance: Practical Solutions for HR


Complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act can be confusing and difficult for even the most savvy HR practitioner. ADA Compliance: Practical Solutions for HR provides detailed answers to some of the most complicated issues that HR practitioners face.

Each chapter contains numerous realistic examples to illustrate the concepts discussed. At the end of each chapter, readers can test their knowledge and understanding of the subject matter covered with a multiple-choice quiz. The answer key provides a detailed explanation of the correct answers.

Buyers’ Benefit: To make sure your ADA Compliance: Practical Solutions for HR remains current with changing interpretations and court decisions, we monitor courts, Congress, and state legislatures. Each year, we’ll rush you an updated edition and bill on a 30-day review basis. You pay only if you decide to keep the updated edition.

For ordering or additional information: ADA Compliance: Practical Solutions for HR.

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