• Article
  • November 29, 2017

What the New Hypertension Guidelines Mean for Employee Wellness

Children's hospitals are using data to assess the needs of their employee populations after revised guidelines on high blood pressure were released.

By Christine Bush

The recent change in high blood pressure guidelines moved more adults into the high blood pressure or hypertensive category and has employers examining how to help keep staff members below the hypertensive bar. The report, released by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines, lowered the parameters identifying people with high blood pressure by 10 points, or a reading of 130/80. This is the first update to the guidelines since 2003, when the standard was a reading of 140/90.

The new report comes with suggestions to intervene as soon as blood pressure reaches the elevated level of 120-129/80. Early interventions include healthy lifestyle changes like diet, weight management or increased fitness. Taking action early may also reduce the need for anti-hypertensive medication.

Several children's hospitals have adopted a data-driven approach with the Claims and Health Analytics Research Tool (CHART) to help shape their wellness programs. CHART, developed by Children's Hospital Association (CHA), captures employee population data and can guide wellness team members as they work to develop useful programs and ideas to benefit employees who want to make health-improving changes.

A review of CHART data collected from sampling of children's hospitals showed an increase in the number of employees who now fall in the elevated risk category. For example, data from one hospital revealed its percentage of employees considered hypertensive rose dramatically. Here's a breakdown of that hospital's employees by age group:

  • Millennials (born 1981-1997): Increased from 2 percent in the hypertensive range to 27 percent with the new guidelines
  • Generation X (born 1965-1980): Increased from 6 percent in the hypertensive range to 38 percent with the new guidelines
  • Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964): Had the highest prevalence under both measures and increased from 9 percent in the hypertensive range to 46 percent with the new guidelines

Wellness coordinators can use CHART data to draw a clearer picture of type of programs that would benefit the different segments of the employee population. "Children's hospitals are adept at serving diverse patient populations and can use this ability to develop targeted interventions to help their at-risk employees," says Rob Davidson, vice president, CHA Insurance Advisory Services.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and Davidson says the growth in the number of people identified as hypertensive under the new guidelines is striking. "The focus should be on lifestyle modifications rather than medication," he says. "This will be a real challenge for wellness programs going forward."

Send questions or comments to magazine@childrenshospitals.org.