By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

Workers looking to improve their heart health can now get access to the most proficient of health coaches. IBM’s famous supercomputer Watson is adding heart health to its list of skills.

The American Heart Association announced Monday the launch of its new Workplace Health Achievement Index and a collaboration to build upon it with IBM’s Watson and the health management company Welltok.

The AHA’s Workplace Health Solutions program will ultimately combine AHA’s expertise for improving health with Watson’s natural language processing and deep question-and-answer capabilities, with Welltok’s CaféWell Health Optimization Platform to enhance the Index with leading technology delivery systems and cognitive analytics capabilities.

The program will assess employee health and the workplace health environment. Employees can measure their own health using the AHA’s My Life Check questionnaire that appraises blood pressure, physical activity and other key indicators of heart health.

A company’s culture of health will be evaluated using the new Workplace Health Achievement Index, the result of efforts by AHA’s CEO Roundtable, a group of 26 CEOs from some of America’s largest employers, including Macy’s, Bank of America and AT&T. Roundtable member companies served as a laboratory to develop and refine the Index.

As Watson is trained on heart health goals and measures, it aims to help employers better design, tailor and deliver health programs, and ultimately provide employees with more customized coaching for those wanting to achieve ideal heart health.

“We’ve presented a science-based blueprint for healthy living and corporate well-being,” Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., AHA’s chief medical officer for prevention, said in a news release. “With this program, individuals and their employers will be able to benefit from a personalized, cognitive solution designed to improve heart health and reduce healthcare costs. Our hope is that we can set a new standard for continuous quality improvement in workplace health.”

IBM, a member of the roundtable, will integrate the offering into its employee wellness strategy.

“The new era of cognitive computing has the potential to transform personal health and well-being,” Kyu Rhee, M.D., chief health officer for IBM Watson Health, said in a news release. “That’s why we are eager to see this offering in action to support the health and wellness of the workforce.”

Heart disease is the leading global cause of death, accounting for over 17 million deaths per year, a number that is expected to grow to more than 24 million by 2030. Unless effective prevention strategies are implemented, the total cost of cardiovascular diseases is projected to exceed $1 trillion by 2030 in the U.S. alone.

A 2014 survey by AHA and Nielsen found that employees who are encouraged by senior management to participate in workplace health programs are nearly twice as likely to report improved health, and more than two-thirds report that these programs have a strong impact on job satisfaction.

Jeff Margolis, chairman and CEO of Welltok, said in a news release, “By putting this innovative program in the hands of consumers, we are guiding them at a personal level to maintain and even improve their health status.”