Wellness Programs Fuel Good Health
By Dee McFarland, president-elect of Western Reserve Association of Health Underwriters and a benefits consultant with AssuredPartners in Boardman.
Workplace wellness is a $40 billion industry, according to the Global Wellness Institute. This money is invested in programs designed to encourage more healthful lifestyles, curb preventable chronic diseases and reduce health-care costs for employers and employees.
Unhealthful behaviors are responsible for most chronic diseases, cause 70% of all deaths and up to 75% of health-care costs. Lack of physical activity, poor diets and tobacco use are directly responsible for up to 90% of chronic diseases.
Wellness programs are the only cost reduction strategy that directly affects this cost-driver.
A properly implemented and maintained program will provide a positive return on investment over the long term.
More than 100 studies have looked at the financial impact of wellness programs. The ability of a wellness program to reduce health-care costs depends upon its effectiveness. An occasional lunch- and-learn and an annual biometric screening are insufficient to lower health-care spending.
Almost every study on return of investment shows a positive return on a well-implemented wellness program. A recent Harvard study of 22 ROI studies shows a positive 3.27 ROI. Still, the savings and ROI are not immediate and in most cases the wellness program took three years to show a return.
A well-implemented and effective wellness plan should begin with:
- Senior management buy-in. Creating sustainable positive changes can be a challenge. Therefore it is imperative to have senior management support with the wellness program. Fifty-three percent of employees who do not participate cite a lack of management support. according to HBR.org.
Senior management needs to understand the goals of reducing risks and health-care costs and the relationship these goals have with increased productivity and reduced absenteeism.
- A comprehensive program designed to serve 70% of employees.The program could include preventive care campaigns, weight loss, nutrition, healthful habit builders, disease management and even stress management.
An ideal way to begin is with a digital platform that allows personalization and leads to health coaching based on employee answers to a risk assessment.
- A solid communication plan. This requires a multi-level approach, which may include an app, online resources, paper resources and dedicated staff.
- Good incentives. Short-term initiatives drive long-term goals. Financial incentives will bring an employee in while nonfinancial incentives such as recognition for meeting goals or winning a competition will drive long-term commitment.
- Community building. One way to ensure success is for the wellness program to become part of the workplace culture. Team building during behavior-change competitions fosters a spirit of wellness and looking out for your fellow employee.
Although the goal of an effective wellness program is to lower health-care costs, the program should also encourage the employees to stay fit, eat well, breathe fresh air and address stress.
Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
CLICK HERE to subscribe to our print edition and sign up to our free daily headlines.