Creating Effective Wellness Programs

By

Employers who value wellness have to do more than offer health club membership discounts.

Offering a health club membership discount is a great, popular way to encourage employees to take responsibility for their own health. In theory, that ought to cut health benefits costs and absenteeism.

The problem is that the discounts often go to employees who would have joined health clubs anyway. What can benefits advisors tell employers about improving the health of the other employees?

One approach is to offer clients programs that combine wellness tracking software, personalized wellness plans and a wide range of wellness incentives.

A good, Web-based wellness system should be able to gauge each employees overall health and come up with personalized exercise, nutrition and lifestyle plans. Replacing “one size fits all” systems with more flexible systems will help employers appeal to more of their employees.

Employers also can push the process along by adding some or all of the following incentives:

–Let employees devote 1 hour of each work week to exercise or wellness planning.

–Sponsor a “health day.” Health day screenings can generate baseline wellness data, get all employees thinking about health, and use peer pressure to motivate employees to improve their diets and lifestyles.

–Set up contests. Prizes can lead to dramatic increases in use of wellness benefits. Weve heard of one employer with 100 employees that gave away a Caribbean cruise for 2 to the employee who showed the most commitment to improving his or her personal health. That might sound extreme, but spending a few thousand dollars on a contest prize might make sense if it helps improve employees health and eliminates hundreds of thousands of dollars in preventable claims.

–Use a point-based motivation system. Some employers offer employees a chance to accumulate reward points when they develop and follow wellness plans. Holders of the reward points can use them to buy health and fitness merchandise.

–Cut the employees share of premiums for employees who live healthier lifestyles.

is president of My ePHIT L.L.C., Salt Lake City, an online wellness service. He can be reached at dhall@myephit.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, January 6, 2005. Copyright 2005 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.