It is crucial that physical activity (PA) is supported both in the health care setting and at the workplace. There is little doubt that health care delivery needs to integrate the promotion of regular PA given its strong impact on disease prevention and treatment. PA levels have steadily declined in the workplace as more people sit longer and move less. A wide variation exists among different occupation types, but labor-saving devices and technological advances at home, work, school and in transportation have dramatically reduced daily energy expenditure and activity levels, affecting overall health.
Central to the desire for increases in the delivery of PA promotion and counseling is the potential cost savings realized by health care systems, payors and employers. One emerging area of research is to evaluate the effectiveness of different clinic-based PA assessment, counseling and/or referral interventions in affecting short and long-term changes in physical activity behavior. This relatively new area of research is beginning to show promising outcomes. EIM’s Global Research and Collaboration Center (GRCC) is engaged in this type of research.
However, cost effectiveness cannot be limited simply to ROI calculations of health care costs alone. The value of regular PA far exceeds the monetized benefits alone. Increases in PA behavior affect physical and mental functioning, quality of life and other dimensions of health and wellbeing that often cannot be calculated as they occur in non-health related dimensions or factors (i.e., the impact of exercise on income and family earnings, PA impact on mood states, etc.).
As the evidence for the integration of EIM into health care systems advances, so too will our knowledge of the direct and indirect savings realized by our multisectoral partners.