The Book CEOs are Banking on to Make Employees Healthier (and Save them Money)

Share By Sachin Shenolikar

The emails flood into Dr. David B. Agus’s inbox, notes forwarded from CEOs via their employees.

It made a difference in my life. 

I’m so glad you care about me.

The emails are testimonials about the renowned cancer doctor’s second book, A Short Guide to a Long Life, which several companies have purchased in bulk to give to their staff and clients. A follow-up to his New York Times best-seller The End of IllnessAgus’s new book offers 65 dos and don’ts that people can follow to live long, healthy lives.

Dr. Agus’s mantra: Diseases can be tough to cure, but many, if not most, can be prevented. Bad habits — everything from taking poor care of your teeth and feet to missing a flu shot — can lead to the development of chronic diseases over a prolonged period.

For corporations that choose the self-insurance route, successful preventative care for their employees can lead to a staggering amount of money saved.

“If you save one heart attack, that’s $78,000 to your bottom line if you’re self- insured. If you prevent a case of colon cancer, that can be over $120,000 to your bottom line,” says Dr. Agus.

“So if you’re a CEO of a company, you want your employees to be healthy to get the most productivity and also to help the bottom line. It’s also a great statement to their employees: I care about you.”

So far, CBS, Paramount, WellPoint, and Dell have purchased the book.

“The health of our members is our key concern, and this book provides simple and easy tips to healthy living,” says Pam Kehaly, west region president for WellPoint.

“We ordered 200 of these books to share with some of our customers in order to help them achieve these important goals.”

Agus hopes the popularity of his book can also help shift the political conversation about healthcare.

“There’s X bandwidth in Washington for health, and for the past 15 years it’s all been about healthcare finance,” he says. “That needs to change. We need to bring the discourse to actual health.”

Dr. Agus believes preventative care can lead to success for both companies and individuals. The long-term effects could be massive — but only if enough people embrace the lifestyle.

“Two to three times a week I have to look someone in the eye and say I’ve got no more drugs to treat your cancer or to treat your heart disease or Alzheimer’s,” says Agus. “I don’t want to do that anymore. I know that many of these diseases are delayable or preventable, and we need to create a movement for change.”


Create a Moving Environment. If you’re a head of a company, don’t put a printer on each person’s office. Make the employee get up and walk to the printer. Also, if it’s feasible, make treadmill desks available for employees and invest in headsets so they can walk around while they talk on the phone.

Eat on Time. Everyone knows about the importance of a well-balanced, low-fat diet. But when you eat is just as important as what you eat. “Start to plan your days so you have meals at the same time every day,” says Dr. Agus. “It doesn’t matter if you have two meals or five. The key is that regularity.”

Walk this Way. Talk this Way. Getting to the gym can be tough for people with immense workloads, so it’s crucial to design a schedule that allows for movement around in the office. “For one or two meetings a day, say to the person, let’s go for a walk while we talk,” says Dr. Agus. “It makes a big difference. Our bodies were designed to move, and we need to build that into our day.”

Take Care of Your Feet. Managers should encourage employees to wear comfortable shoes. “Forcing them to wear dress shoes or heels is probably not the best way to care about them in the long run,” says Dr. Agus. “If you walk 30 minutes a day, you will add several years to your life. I believe most people can live into their ninth or tenth decade by preventing or delaying disease.”

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