Expanding the focus on prevention

IBM has long understood that investing in prevention and well-being makes sense for our employees as well as our business. Healthy employees tend to experience better quality of life and higher personal productivity, and those who discover health problems early tend to get well faster and spend less on medical care. Our strategy for improving employee health, while keeping costs in check, has four core elements:

Our strategy for improving employee health, while keeping costs in check, has four core elements:

  • Supporting health system reform
  • Investing in prevention and primary care
  • Developing programs for healthy lifestyles among our employees and community
  • Scaling programs and services through Web-based healthcare tools

One recent example of our preventative programs was a comprehensive employee screening effort we conducted in India during 2008, in response to what data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Indian Medical Association (IMA) have shown to be alarming rates of cardiac disease and diabetes in the country.

The program was organized at five major locations covering an IBM population of almost 45,000, with approximately 18,000 employees participating. Analysis of the participants’ health risks revealed the following group profile:

  • 29 percent of participating employees below 30 years of age had high blood pressure recordings, which exceeds the average rate of hypertension in this age group
  • 88 percent of employees over 40 years of age have a body mass index (BMI) of 25, with 27 percent of them having BMI >30. A recent WHO study indicates a 30 to 35 percent obesity rate (BMI >30) in the general population
  • 48 percent of employees over 40 have high fasting blood sugar (FBS)

IBM plans to conduct a Health Risk Assessment targeting all IBM employees in India, and also to establish a diet and nutrition awareness program to help employees address some of the lifestyle issues related to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Accessibility: Accessibility & Disability Central

The new A&D Central, a Web application that will help employees with disabilities improve their productivity and find the resources they need to work effectively, will be piloted as an IT solution this year. The tool will streamline accommodation requests for items like computer audio screen readers and live captioning for teleconferences. It will also centralize the delivery processes to assist employees with disabilities, their managers and human resources partners.

Point of View

“Technology is making the world accessible to people with disabilities, totaling more than 10 percent of our global population. IBM has taken the lead in looking beyond the bottom line to enhance the quality of life for those with disabilities and, in particular, individuals facing vision impairment—161 million people worldwide.

We’re proud to collaborate with IBM on projects that set industry standards such as accessibilityWorks, which makes web content available to people with disabilities and special needs, and PowerUp, the virtual world game specially enhanced to be accessible to players with vision loss.

Yet additional challenges remain, including lack of audible access to the Internet, as well as lack of voice recognition across a wide range of products and technologies, which can, in fact, be realized today. While they are needed by people with vision loss and other disabilities now, they will come to market only as mass demand calls for it.”

Tara A. Cortes, President and CEO, Lighthouse International

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