By Tori Gabriel, MBA-HA, Florida Heart Research Institute –
More and more businesses across the nation are considering with renewed interest offering worksite wellness programs and services to their employees. Why now – when businesses are struggling to stay afloat during the economic downturn is the case for workplace wellness gaining momentum? Fortune 500 companies have long offered wellness programs to employees and well paid consultants have been able to statistically prove a return on investment. But what about the small or mid-sized employer that does not have the financial resources to hire the slick wellness consultants or allocate large budget dollars to wellness programming?
The answer is multi-faceted but lies in the realization that the healthcare delivery system is in disarray and the understanding that employers must take a more proactive approach to wellness and health if we are to combat the persistent rise in healthcare costs. 50 to 70% of all chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.) can be linked to unhealthy lifestyle choices. As Americans, we have come to expect quick fixes to treat our high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes and we have come to expect that when illnesses pop up, we can take a pill to eliminate them. But that concept toward health is reactionary. Employers are realizing that the road to wellness may be a PROACTIVE approach to HEALTH rather than a REACTIVE approach to ILLNESS.
Worksite wellness is an opportunity for employers to keep their healthy employees well and encourage their employees with risk factors to make the important lifestyle changes to prevent, reduce and even reverse the onset of chronic diseases. Research has shown that chronic diseases can be prevented through a lifestyle of regular exercise, a heart healthy diet and not using tobacco products. The key is getting employees to set personal health goals and accept responsibility and accountability for their own health. Since we often spend more waking hours with our co-workers than we do with our own families, would it not make intuitive sense for employers to take advantage of the time they spend with employees to encourage them to adopt healthy lifestyles?
Creative approaches to encouraging behavior change include premium reductions for employees who meet participation goals or personal wellness goals. Most insurance carriers offer wellness programs to their clients and members. The types of programs can vary based on the carrier. Be careful! Carriers can rarely provide the onsite, personal approach that you may be able to find through a wellness consultant. A good consultant will assist in the design, facilitation, and implementation of your program and offer best practice approaches to ensure you meet your pre-established goals. Take advantage of the programs your carrier has to offer, but you will have to complement their services to ensure your total employee population can take advantage of your program. Savvy employers realize that more and more healthcare carriers and insurance brokers are offering wellness programs and services as an added value to contracting with them. It is perfectly acceptable for employers to negotiate that biometric screenings and health risk assessments be included as part of the benefits package. But screenings and HRAs only scratch the surface. Employers should consider educational workshops, health coaching, nutrition consults, fitness competitions, weight loss competitions, “Take the Stair” campaigns, smoking cessation incentives, etc. Seek brokers willing to assist in wellness program development. If you think of your employees as your most valuable resource, then an employee wellness program should be a top priority to your organization.
Florida Heart Research Institute offers wellness consulting and an array of a la carte screening services, health and nutrition coaching and educational programming through our Working to Health® corporate wellness program. In addition, FHRI has partnered with the Miami-Dade County Health Department and Seitlin Insurance to bring you the 2012 South Florida Worksite Wellness Forum and Awards to recognize employers from Orlando to Key West with wellness programs with documented outcomes and to encourage more employers to get involved in worksite wellness. We invite you to our event on Friday, April 20th, 2012 at the Miami Beach Resort and Spa. Our morning workshops earn HR and CHES credits and our luncheon features a national Keynote speaker, Michael O’Donnell, editor of the American Journal of Health Promotion.
Go to www.worksitewellnessawards.org for more information and learn “Why Wellness Works”!
Florida Heart Research Institute