Most large employers in the U.S. plan to invest more in the health and welfare of their employees, according to Hewitt Associates.

Hewitt, a human resources consulting attention firm in Lincolnshire, Ill., found that 63% of employers plan to take more aggressive steps to help employees improve their health. Included in their planning: increasing education efforts, implementing condition- management programs and using data analysis and other advanced programs to improve health and productivity.

Hewitt’s survey of approximately 450 major U.S. employers covering more than 8 million employees revealed employers continue to be concerned about the cost of health benefits but realize they need to begin “influencing the interactions between providers and patients,” said Jim Winkler, practice leader of Hewitt’s health management consulting practice.

Almost 70% of companies offer or plan to offer tools, resources or programs to help employees better manage their health, including health risk questionnaires, decision support and nurse lines, Hewitt found.

Hewitt also found 77% of employers maintain profiles of the chronic health conditions prevalent in their workforce in 2007, compared with just 43% who did so last year. Between 65% and 79% gave or planned to give employees access to targeted condition management or wellness programs through health plans or focused programs. And 48% offered or planned to offer incentives to employees who participate in wellness programs or other health-related initiatives, compared with 38% in 2006.