Is “The Moose Factor” An Employer’s Greatest Health Risk?

A Lesson from the Colorado Culture of Health

“A moose will hide behind a tree when it senses danger, no matter how small the tree is. The moose figures if it can’t see you, you can’t see it.”  (Source: Stanford Medicine Scope Blog, June 10, 2013)

What do you suppose represents your organization’s biggest threat to improving health outcomes and controlling costs?  Would it be obesity?  How about risk behaviors such as smoking, drug abuse, or inactivity?  Or do you think it may be overutilization or perhaps price inflation?

At this year’s Colorado Culture of Health on April 27th, Kathleen Killion, Executive Director of Valley Health Alliance, presented some of the findings from VHA’s 2016 annual report.  Under Kathleen’s tireless leadership, VHA– a coalition of Pitkin County’s largest self-funded employers – has had some remarkable success in its short existence.  Their report shared some fascinating results from a comprehensive risk assessment completed by Mayo Clinic Global Business Solutions.  Here’s what we found to be perhaps the single most important observation of VHA’s study:

“80% of our population consider their health status to be very good or excellent, although 52% are at high risk for at least one lifestyle or medical risk.”  Valley Health Alliance 2016 Annual Report

We doubt, of course, that this observation would be unique to employees of VHA’s members.  Rather, we would guess that this disconnect between employees’ actual risk status and their perceived risk status represents every employer’s greatest health risk.   Whether you’re located in the central mountains, the Front Range, or the Western Slope, the fairly universal nature of human behavior suggests that the key to obtaining “more health, not more health care”  (our de facto motto) is employee engagement.  And while engagement is likely a multi-factorial challenge, it most certainly begins with promoting awareness.

To learn more about the activities of the Valley Health Alliance, you can visit their web site at