Some wellness programs have flourished in the past few years.[@@]

Researchers at Watson Wyatt Worldwide, Washington, and the National Business Group on Health, Washington, have published figures supporting that conclusion in a study based on an informal survey of 275 U.S. employers.

The share of participating employers offering “health promotion programs” increased to 75%, from 56%, between 2003 and 2006.

Employers also are making heavy use of 2 types of wellness programs that were rare in 2003: health risk appraisals and personal health coaching.

No employers reported using those tools in 2003, but now 72% of survey participants say they offer health risk appraisals, and 40% offer personal health coaching.

Researchers also found evidence that taking the time to measure returns on wellness programs may lead to real improvements in employee health. At participant employers that measure returns on investments in wellness programs, sick leave took up only 1.7% of payroll, according to the Watson Wyatt and National Business Group researchers.

At employers that do not measure returns on wellness program investments, sick leave took up 2.6% of payroll, the researchers report.