Almost 66% of U.S. companies offer programs to keep employees healthy, according to a new study.

The study for the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, by Health2 Resources found 66% percent of employers offering wellness programs also use incentives, with many reporting a return on that investment.

The value of incentives averaged $329 in 2009 and ranged from $1 per pound for weight loss to annual premium reductions valued at more than $1,500, reports Health2 Resources, Vienna, Va., a benefits communications firm. Insurance premium reductions were the most common incentive found, followed by merchandise and tokens and gift cards.

Employers are becoming more advanced about measuring the ROI from wellness and disease management programs, and today’s economy increases the pressure for a payoff from this spending, says Health2 Resources.

“We are not talking about $5 here or there,” commented Katherine H. Capps, president of Health2 Resources. “We are talking about serious investment into productivity, made by employers with as few as 200 employees, for as much as $1,400 a year per employee. Employers are taking control of health care costs by creating smart, effective new strategies to keep employees healthy, and to keep employees at work.”