sanofi-aventis Canada Inc.
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sanofi-aventis Canada Inc.

May 13, 2008 07:00 ET

Canadian Workforce Increasingly Concerned About Developing Chronic Diseases

- Survey Reveals Significant Information Gaps On Preventive Health Measures -

LAVAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - May 13, 2008) - Growing concerns about developing chronic diseases, increasing illness from workplace-related stress, and knowledge gaps about health risks are challenging both Canadian employees and employers. To mitigate these threats to employee health and organizational productivity, leading employers have developed strategies and tactics to improve knowledge of prevention, and increase participation in wellness programs. These findings and others are drawn from the 11th edition of The sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey released today. The national survey of 1,500 health benefit plan members is the most comprehensive research to examine the attitudes and preferences of Canadians about their employer-sponsored health benefit plans. The survey also explores employee perceptions about the role of the public healthcare system and the workplace.

On the surface it appears that Canadian employees are in good health and on the right track when it comes to their well-being, with two-thirds (67%) of respondents reporting their health was excellent or very good over the past year. However, the survey also confirms that workplace stress is a serious and costly issue impacting employees' health. Almost four in 10 (39%) respondents to The sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey acknowledged that workplace stress has made them physically ill at times (compared to 25% in 2002) and 18 per cent say stress, both at home and work, has made them physically ill. Respondents also expressed growing concerns about being at risk for developing chronic diseases such as cancer (78% vs. 60% in 2001), heart disease (70% vs. 57% in 2001) and diabetes (54% vs. 39% in 2001).

These findings also show respondents have significant information gaps regarding the appropriate practices they should adopt to prevent or reduce the effects of certain health conditions. While plan members say they are concerned about obesity and mental illness (36% and 34% respectively), 40 per cent did not name diet, and 43 per cent did not name exercise as means to prevent obesity, over a quarter (28%) did not know how to prevent mental illness and even fewer respondents (23%) identified stress reduction as a way to avert mental illness.

Chris Bonnett, a member of The sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey Advisory Board and president of Toronto-based H3 Consulting / businesshealth, says, "The survey clearly indicates growing concern among employees about their health. Beyond governments, they are looking to their employers for support and access to health education and programming. Plan sponsors gain a healthier and more loyal workforce, and so it makes sense to consider a comprehensive response that includes high- quality and more flexible health benefit plans, and a greater emphasis on prevention."

The survey shows employees recognize the importance of workplace wellness programs and education as a means to assist them in coping with increasing health risks. Prevention and workplace wellness practices such as coverage for vaccines (75%), exercise programs (72%) and "cutting- edge" drugs (69%) were the highest ranked health priorities. Additionally, nearly three-quarters (71%) of respondents without access to workplace wellness programs say they would be interested in participating in such programs if they were available.

The sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey also unveils the significant gains employers can realise from shifting their health benefit plans to focus on prevention, including higher employee retention and satisfaction levels, improved productivity and reduced health benefit costs. A vast majority of respondents (83%) would be more likely to stay in their job if they really believed their employer was interested in maintaining their good health and three-quarters (75%) think more highly of their employer thanks to the health benefit plan provided. Fewer respondents (35%) whose employer provides health education at work are likely to report having high and prolonged workplace stress compared to those without such programs (44%).

When it comes to controlling benefit plan costs, 76 per cent of plan members believe they have an obligation to help their employer control the cost of their health benefit plans and more than nine in 10 (96%) believe that preventing disease, illness or injury would help employers control those costs.

"Making this transition to focus on prevention is not an easy undertaking that can be solely carried out by plan sponsors," says Jacques L'Esperance, president of J. L'Esperance Actuariat Conseil Inc. and a member of The sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey Advisory Board. "Everyone has a role to play in terms of fostering a supportive environment to nurture and address prevention as opposed to episodic and crisis management of disease."

Nine in 10 respondents (90%) think governments should take more responsibility for prevention rather than just treatment, with a similar percentage (89%) of plan members agreeing governments should spend more on prevention. Respondents also see plan sponsors as accountable for promoting prevention and health education programs. Sixty-one per cent of employees find it appropriate for their employer to encourage disease, illness and injury prevention as long as their employer does not have access to their personal health records. Additionally, about one-third (35%) believe it would be appropriate for their employer to help them manage their health.

Additional Key Findings:

- While a majority of employees (57%) report that their employer provides health education (up from 39% in 2003), there is still room for improvement as only a third (30%) strongly agree their employer is doing enough to promote health and disease, illness and injury prevention.

- While 53 per cent of respondents have traditional plans with no choice of coverage, 15 per cent say this is the type they most prefer, compared to almost 65 per cent who prefer a flexible plan.

About the Survey

Sanofi-aventis commissioned Rogers Business and Professional Publishing Group to conduct the 2008 survey, the 11th in the series. Ipsos-Reid conducted The sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey between December 4th and 13th, 2007, with a random national sample of 1,500 primary health benefit plan members. One can say with 95 per cent certainty that the results are within +/-2.5 percentage points of what they would have been had the entire population been polled.

To view the survey in its entirety, visit www.sanofi-aventis.ca.

About sanofi-aventis

Sanofi-aventis, a leading global pharmaceutical company, discovers, develops and distributes therapeutic solutions to improve the lives of everyone. Sanofi-aventis is listed in Paris (EURONEXT:SAN) and in New York (NYSE:SNY).

Sanofi-aventis is represented in Canada by the pharmaceutical company sanofi-aventis Canada Inc., based in Laval, Quebec, and by the vaccines company Sanofi Pasteur Limited, based in Toronto, Ontario. Together they employ more than 2,000 people across the country.

Contact Information

  • sanofi-aventis Canada Inc.
    SYLVAIN CLERMONT
    Director, Communications
    1-877-904-2667
    (514) 956-2644 (FAX)
    Email: sylvain.clermont@sanofi-aventis.com
    or
    Cohn & Wolfe Montreal
    MELISSA MALOUL
    Consultant
    (514) 845-2257, ext. 228 or Cell: (514) 554-2487
    (514) 845-4075 (FAX)
    or
    Cohn & Wolfe Montreal
    MARYSE BIENVENU
    Account executive
    (514) 845-2257, ext. 232 or Cell: (514) 554-1429
    (514) 845-4075 (FAX)
    Website: www.sanofi-aventis.ca