Our health and the health of our loved ones is by far the most important thing to us. If we were to turn the clock back a hundred years, sadly, not as much could be done to look after it. Prior to penicillin, almost no-one felt there was anything that could be done about their health status. Health was simply a lottery.
Thankfully things have changed immensely over the last century. In our modern society traditional risks associated with poor health such as inadequate nutrition, unsafe water and poor sanitation have all but been eradicated.
This, combined with significant and ongoing advances in medical science and a greater understanding of what constitutes healthy living, have resulted in increased life expectancy. And yet with modern life comes a changing health risk profile.
While infectious diseases are no longer the main causes of mortality or morbidity in this country, so-called 'diseases of lifestyle' such as heart disease, cancer and type II diabetes now represent a significant burden for both the NHS and private medical sector alike. Both the current and future burden of these diseases is all too apparent.
Over a quarter of adults in England are obese, over 50% of obese men and over 40% of obese women have high blood pressure compared to 20% of men and 15% of women with normal weight, and a quarter of women and 23% of men are currently at ‘very high risk' of developing health problems.
The reality is even in developed countries such as ours where we are living longer than previous generations, the extra years we gain are not necessarily being spent in good health, with 50% of ‘healthy years' lost attributable to poor lifestyle.
While on the face of it these statistics make for disturbing reading, the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle are clear. 80% of premature heart attacks, strokes and type II diabetes and 40% of cancers could be prevented through lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, eating healthily and not smoking.
Despite these benefits, for many of us finding the time, money and motivation to participate in healthy behaviours such as regular exercise, represent significant barriers. What's more, the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle are not always immediately obvious.
Each extra pound gained in weight and each cigarette smoked, taken in isolation, represent a small incremental risk. However the increasing impact of these behaviours over time represents a significant health risk.
Private medical insurance has, and continues to play, an important role in protecting the lives of millions of people, whether it be offering access to quick diagnosis and treatment or covering the costs of the latest life saving cancer therapies. But healthcare is much more than just treatment for when you are sick.
There is now a clear demand for a more holistic approach to health and wellbeing. Research shows that since the 1980s, consumers have consistently ranked staying fit and healthy as being their biggest concern.
Employers are also increasingly aware of what they need to encourage their employees to do, whether it be eating healthily, exercising regularly, reducing stress or attending a health screening. And when asked, the overwhelming majority (93%) of health insurance customers and considerers agree that it is important for health insurers to help their customers manage and improve their health.
For nearly eight years now, PruHealth has been helping its customers manage and improve their health and wellbeing as well as giving them the reassurance of quality health insurance cover should they become ill.
Vitality, our health and wellbeing programme, is not only proven to deliver a reduction in healthcare costs over the long-term, but through its network of specially selected health and reward partners, provides our customers with immediate and tangible value.
Vitality overcomes barriers to healthy living such as cost and lack of access by offering customers discounts and rewards on a range of healthy living activities such as going to the gym, everyday exercise, going for a health screen or health check and eating healthily.
And to give our customers the added motivation to look after and improve their health, Vitality offers a wide-ranging package of rewards including cash back, discounted holidays and cruises, discounted mobile phone contracts and discounted entertainment packages.
We know these are the types of things which motivate people, so it makes sense to use them as rewards for looking after their health. Our customers clearly understand and appreciate the additional value Vitality provides.
Not only have we facilitated millions of gym visits and thousands of health screening and fitness assessments, 70% of our customers agree that PruHealth has helped them to live a healthy lifestyle. And most importantly, in terms of controlling healthcare costs, Vitality is shown to be effective with the cost of claims for customers on our highest Vitality status, Platinum, up to 36% less than those on Bronze.