Encouraging healthy employee habits through preventive care

a group of doctors and nurses discussing a preventive care topic

Ensuring that employees make the most of their employer-provided health plan is a two-pronged effort of awareness and education. Highmark Inc. and its health plan affiliates have created preventive care tools, programs, and communications to encourage healthy habits among today’s decentralized workforce.

Preventive care is proactive care

During the pandemic, many people avoided making doctor appointments for fear of contracting COVID-19. The good news is that primary care visits are back up, with 75% of Americans seeing their doctors for a routine checkup in 2021.1

Consistent medical care is essential for employees with chronic diseases and risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, inactivity, and obesity. These five conditions alone cost U.S. employers an estimated $36.4 billion per year in missed work.2

Preventive care can make all the difference for employees with one or more of these chronic conditions. For example, for people with diabetes and high blood pressure, keeping blood pressure in check can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 50%.3

It’s important to let employees know they can (and should) take time away from work to take care of their health. Highmark provides a suite of preventive care employee communications pieces to help spread the word about being proactive in planning regular doctor visits and follow-up appointments.

Employees covered by a Highmark benefits plan also have access to valuable health education tools through our member portal. In addition, the federal government offers free advice on recommended health screenings, good nutrition, and physical fitness at MyHealthFinder by

The mind-body connection

Supporting a workplace culture of whole-person health means understanding the connection between physical and mental health. 

About one-third of people who have a long-term physical health condition also have a mental health concern — primarily anxiety and/or depression.4 There is a direct correlation between a healthy mind and body. 

In fact, improving psychological well-being increases positive immune response and enhances resistance to disease.5 Employees want — and need — access to programs that address the needs of their minds, bodies, and spirits. 

Employers can start by reducing the stigma around mental health and making it easier to get care. Onboarding conversations and annual employee benefits sessions provide an opportunity to talk openly about mental health and available resources. 

Highmark supports our employer-provided health plan members with options for virtual visits with counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists. Our prescription plans cover mental health medications. We also offer helpful tools through our online member portal. 

Improving employee mental health offerings doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive. Employers can encourage the use of mindfulness and meditation apps, like Calm and Headspace. A confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can also go a long way in helping people take control of their well-being.

An apple a day

The saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” was first popularized in the late 1880s. Researchers have studied this statement for decades, focusing on the vitamin content, high fiber, and other health attributes of this favorite fruit. Today, we know that all fruits and vegetables contribute to a healthy diet. 

Plant-forward eating — including two cups of fruit per day — can help reduce the risk of many leading causes of illness and death, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 10% of Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables.6 

Employers can make it easier for employees to explore healthier ways of eating by offering whole food, vegan, and vegetarian choices in the cafeteria and employee lounge. Simple strategies can help empower healthy habits.

Walk the talk

Like the “apple a day” adage, it’s become popular to say that people need to get 10,000 steps a day to stay well. This idea began in 1965 with a Japanese-made pedometer called Manpo-kei (10,000-steps meter). 

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2021 shows that the magic number is actually a little lower. The research indicates that people walking at least 7,000 steps per day had a 50% to 70% lower risk of death.7 

Employers can encourage this healthy habit in the workplace as well. Normalizing the need to get up and away from one’s desk is an easy first step. Walking clubs and virtual competitions can boost activity among sedentary workers. Perks like discounts on fitness trackers and other devices can help too.

Employer-provided health plans can make good health more accessible

Employers should recognize that each employee’s definition of health is different. That’s why it’s vital to empower them with customizable strategies on their journey to wellness in mind and body. Highmark employer health plans provide this opportunity by making preventive care more accessible and more equitable for all.

All references to “Highmark” in this communication are references to Highmark Inc., an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, and/or to one or more of its affiliated Blue companies.

1 CDC, “BRFSS Prevalence & Trends Data,” US Department of Health & Human Services, Sept. 13, 2021.


2 National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, “Chronic Disease Fact Sheet: Workplace Health Promotion,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 9, 2022.


3, “Clinical Preventive Services,” Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2020.


4 “Physical Health and Mental Health,” Mental Health Foundation, Feb. 18, 2022.


5 Abdurachman and Netty Herawati, “The Role of Psychological Well-being in Boosting Immune Response: An Optimal Effort for Tackling Infection,” African Journal of Infectious Diseases, Mark 7, 2018, 54-61.


6 CDC, “Only 1 in 10 Adults Gets Enough Fruits or Vegetables,” US Department of Health and Human Services.


7 Amanda E. Paluch, PhD, et al., “Steps per Day and All-Cause Mortality in Middle-aged Adults in

the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study,” JAMA Network Open, 2021.

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