April 4, 2018

Aetna, Harvard launch well-being research initiative

Hartford health insurer Aetna and Harvard researchers are collaborating on a five-year study of determinants of well-being, ways to enhance it, and correlations to population health and productivity.

Researchers at Aetna and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health will gather data on physical health, emotional health, social connectedness, financial security, purpose and character strengths.

Data collected could enhance the understanding of public health and well-being, said Tyler VanderWeele, a professor of epidemiology at the Chan School and director of Harvard's Program on Integrative Knowledge and Human Flourishing. He is jointly leading the project with Eileen McNeely, an instructor and co-director of the Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) at the Chan School.

"Engagement and productivity are driven by several dimensions of well-being, and physical health is just one of many factors," said Dr. Harold L. Paz, executive vice president and chief medical officer for Aetna, adding the research will help Aetna's efforts to improve the well-being of people it serves.

To prepare for the research, Aetna is piloting a proprietary well-being assessment with certain Aetna employees to refine the program before rolling it out to more employees. Employees ultimately will receive personalized and confidential results, which will be used to create a well-being improvement plan for each individual.

Data will be shared between Aetna and Harvard with no individually identifying information. Over time, the researchers at the Chan School will be able to draw new insights into the determinants of well-being, assess the effectiveness of various interventions and programs, and inform the development of new tools to promote well-being, Aetna said.

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