The economic impact of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is pretty astounding, however, much can be done to help lower costs and educate employers and employees so everyone benefits.
I’ve worked in corporate settings for a good part of my life, and none of the employers I worked for had educational programs for IBS. For my lifestyle, having IBS is not as stressful because I no longer report to a cubicle, I don’t have to watch how many sick days I use and I no longer have a long commute (no more “where’s the nearest bathroom?” “will I make it home in time?”). At present day I am very knowledgeable of IBS as well as treatment and therapeutic options, however, if my symptoms of IBS were more severe a few years ago before I left my corporate cubicle, I would have benefited greatly from an educational program, better benefits and a more flexible and understanding employer. IBS is very hard to talk about and many believe it doesn’t deserve some serious attention, which is a little sad because so many people are impacted economically, physically and psychologically.
If more educational programs were put into place by employers, the total economic and psychological impact of IBS may be lessened because:
- Employers would understand the disease better and therefore offer the support employees need to be their best
- Educational programs could then help employees to lessen and/or ease symptoms of IBS and they would also miss less days and be more productive at work
Many employees with symptoms of IBS do not report that they are unwell to their employers: “Because of the nature of IBS symptoms and the fact that some employers do not accept these symptoms as valid reasons for work absence, patients often do not disclose that they have IBS. For example, in the IBS Bulletin Survey, 47% of respondents reported that they had not informed their employers of their IBS.” Total Costs of IBS: Employer and Managed Care Perspective Brooks Cash, MD, FACP; Sean Sullivan, JD; and Victoria Barghout, MSPH.
“It has been well demonstrated that workplace health improvement programs are effective in managing other long-term conditions. Patients who have participated in these programs report that they feel healthier and more in control of their disease; this outcome has resulted in measurable reductions in medical care costs and absenteeism and in enhanced productivity in patients with depression and diabetes.” See below, Total Costs of IBS.
With the right educational programs, employers can give employees the right tools to learn and feel better and the confidence to speak up at work and receive the support they need – support for their health and support from their employer and peers. If your employer does not have an educational program for digestive disorders, I urge you to speak up and ask them to consider implementing one in 2017! Share my infographic with them.