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Staying the course

“People are at the heart of an organization’s success,” says survey advisory board member Chris Bonnett. “A weak economy doesn’t change this. Even if some companies must cut staff to survive, they must also look after those who remain. Employees need peace of mind and the survey demonstrates health benefits plans provide an important level of security.”

While difficult economic times are challenging for both employers and their employees, survey results indicate it’s not a time when plan sponsors should compromise health benefit plans at the expense of their plan members. The 2009 sanofi- aventis survey has reaffirmed the importance plan members place on their plans, and has also identified the implications of stress, and the importance plan members place on health care access and health and wellness programs in the workplace. As the report says, “The more employees understand and control their health risks, the more likely it is that employers will have lower long- term costs and create greater employee loyalty.” This underlines the value plan members place on their plans, and the plan’s ability to build greater employee engagement, loyalty, and ultimately productivity in the workplace.

For more information on this year’s findings, you can read the sanofi- aventis Health Care Survey 2009 at http://www.sanofi-aventis.ca

Source: sanofi-aventis Health Care Survey 2009

H1N1 flu virus

The next wave?

While swine influenza viruses normally don’t infect people, occasionally the virus jumps species and human infections occur. This was the case this past spring when H1N1 flu virus was detected. The spread of H1N1 between countries eventually resulted in the World Health Organization raising its pandemic alert to Phase Six (the highest level). Now, we’re waiting to see how the virus will affect North Americans this fall and winter.

Symptoms

The symptoms of H1N1 are similar to a typical seasonal flu affecting humans. The respiratory illness causes fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, body aches, fatigue, and loss of appetite.

Although the H1N1 flu virus generally causes moderate illness, with most people recovering without the need of medical treatment, the illness did cause the deaths of 21 Canadians and infected close to 8,000 people across the country (confirmed cases) as of June 26, 2009. Some remote First Nations communities have experienced severe outbreaks of the illness. It’s also noteworthy that H1N1 flu virus affects younger people, with the average age of the Canadians suffering from the illness being 22.

Recognizing the social and economic effects that a pandemic such as H1N1 could potentially cause, insurance companies are committed to ensuring that group benefits providers have appropriate planning in place to support staff and clients, and the possible influx of health claims due to the illness of plan members.

Manulife Financial Group Benefits will continue to share information with customers concerning its preparations and business continuity plans through a dedicated section on our Group Benefits public website (www.manulife.ca/groupbenefits). This site also acts as a portal, with links to sites like the World Health Organization and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Plan sponsors are encouraged to continue measures to protect their plan members and try to minimize the impact of any potential flu to their workplaces. Communication efforts that promote prevention can begin with obvious but effective initiatives like encouraging proper hand washing, and educating workers on how influenzas and other infectious diseases can spread from person to person.

Information on H1N1 flu virus in Canada is available from the Public Health Agency of Canada website (http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/alert- alerte/swine_200904-eng.php).

In Canada, we normally consider the flu to be an illness that occurs during the fall and winter months. Therefore, health care experts are monitoring the progress of H1N1 flu virus carefully, preparing for a potentially devastating flu season.

Source: Public Health Agency of Canada

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