Pilot Program Helps Educate Employers to Support Employees with Cancer

New cancer support program funded by WellPoint Foundation

INDIANAPOLIS & WASHINGTON--()--Workplace Transitions for People Touched by Cancer is testing an actionable and interactive resource with six large businesses in an effort to support employers and their employees’ healthy and productive return to work after a cancer diagnosis. The goal is to offer the resource for free to all employers next year after it has been tested.

“Cancer is not a one-size-fits-all experience for employers or employees”

The Workplace Transitions for People Touched by Cancer program is a collaboration among the US Business Leadership Network, Cancer and Careers, Pfizer, WellPoint, and SEDL, a non-profit educational research firm, and is funded by a $250,000 grant from the WellPoint Foundation.

Six businesses – Ernst & Young, Merck, North American Mission Board, Northrop Grumman, Verizon and WellPoint – are participating in the pilot.

The 2005 Institute of Medicine report, From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition, examined the wide range of medical and psychosocial issues faced by cancer survivors and recommended that providers, advocacy organizations, and other government agencies “continue to educate employers and the public about the successes achieved in cancer treatment, the improved prospects for survival, and the continuing productivity of most patients who are treated for cancer,” and employers should implement programs to assist cancer survivors such as return-to-work programs.

“Returning to work after being diagnosed with cancer or undergoing cancer treatment can be psychologically and physically challenging. It often brings mixed emotions of fear, relief, and hope,” said Dr. Sam Nussbaum, WellPoint’s chief medical officer. “Addressing a cancer patient’s psychosocial concerns, which includes transitioning back to work, can help improve their health and quality of life. This pilot is focused on providing tools to help businesses ensure a healthy and productive work environment for their employees following a cancer diagnosis, and help ensure that individuals feel comfortable returning to work.”

Nearly 80 percent of people diagnosed with cancer say continuing work after diagnosis aids recovery, according to a 2013 survey from Cancer and Careers and Harris Interactive. Still, just as many respondents said they struggle to find support navigating the work/life balance of employment with cancer.

A recent survey of 188 employers conducted by WellPoint discovered that only 15 percent of managers believed they had the tools and resources they needed to support employees in a cancer situation.

“At least one survey has found that the biggest predictor of return to work for people diagnosed with cancer is work accommodations,” said Rebecca Nellis, vice president, programs and strategy, Cancer and Careers. “It’s really about stimulating a dialogue between the employee, the supervisor and human resources so that they can work together to identify issues, find solutions and keep employees with cancer who want to work working to their full ability.”

It can be something as simple as shifting an office location for someone who is nauseated post–chemotherapy by the smell of the adjacent cafeteria or adding a printer to the desk of an employee with cancer who is too fatigued to climb up several floors to a shared printer.

“As an employer, if we can support our employees in the way they need to be supported during one of the most psychological, emotional and physical challenges of their lives, we know they will be more productive and that we’ll have a better chance of retaining them in the long term,” said Peter Nigro, executive director, Merck global employee health. “We want our employees to know that we are here for them in these challenging times and that together we can lead the way for other employers and employees.”

Workplace Transitions for People Touched by Cancer gives managers and their human resources staff members a web-enabled toolkit that provides useful information and guidance while empowering them to manage situations that arise when someone on their team has been diagnosed with cancer, including how to talk to someone who has just been diagnosed. The main goals of the eToolkit are to ensure a supportive work environment and support the employee's quality of life. As part of the project, researchers will survey employees from several large employers to determine if the eToolkit does what it is intended to do.

The toolkit helps employers to be aware of the law regarding employees with disabilities, which may include those who have been diagnosed with cancer. However, not all the laws apply to all employers and not all people diagnosed with cancer are considered to have a disability. The toolkit can help them understand their role in supporting their employee.

“Cancer is not a one-size-fits-all experience for employers or employees,” said Jill Houghton, executive director, U.S. Business Leadership Network. “It’s important that we measure results of the resource to ensure we can truly meet our goals of providing resources that support employers and their employees’ health and productive return to the workplace.”

About WellPoint Foundation

The WellPoint Foundation is the philanthropic arm of WellPoint, Inc. and through charitable contributions and programs, the Foundation promotes the inherent commitment of WellPoint, Inc. to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that WellPoint, Inc. and its affiliated health plans serve. The Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These disease states and medical conditions include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company’s year-round Associate Giving program which provides a 50 percent match of associates’ campaign pledges, as well as its Volunteer Time Off and Dollars for Doers community service programs. To learn more about the WellPoint Foundation, please visit www.wellpointfoundation.org and its blog at http://wellpointfoundation.tumblr.com.

About the US Business Leadership Network

The US Business Leadership Network® (USBLN®) is a national, 501(c) (3) non-profit, non-partisan, business-to-business network that helps businesses drive performance by leveraging disability inclusion in the workplace, supply chain, and marketplace. It provides business members with opportunities to network with other businesses and to gain information and valuable resources on disability inclusion practices across the entire business to enable them to:

· Recruit and retain the best talent regardless of disability

· Broaden their supplier bases to include diverse supplier groups, such as Disability-Owned Business Enterprises (DOBE®s), including service-disabled veteran-owned businesses, certified through the USBLN® Disability Supplier Diversity Program® (DSDP®), the nation's leading third party certification program for disability-owned businesses

· Increase their companies’ share of diverse established and emerging markets


WellPoint Foundation
Leslie Porras, 818-234-3368

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