Ensuring Success for Your Wellness Program
By Sandra Kuhn Wellness programs have emerged asan important component of medical ben-efit offerings. Over the years, there havebeen a number of different strategiessuggested, tried and rejected – all in anattempt to manage the cost of delivering this employee benefit. Will the inclusionof education, prevention and targetedaction programs prove to be a worth- while effort and demonstrate its valueover time? The potential certainly exists;but there are several important consider-ations to keep in mind as you eitherbegin a program or refine your offering.
Understanding your organization’s ability to support wellness efforts goes beyond affordabili-ty. Will senior management actively par-ticipate and promote wellness efforts?Are catering and vending practices con-sistent with wellness messages? Can the vision of the wellness program be linkedto organizational commitment toemployee well being?
Understanding the health of your population.
Depending on the size of your organization and budget for well-ness, employers often use on site bio-metric screenings and health risk assess-ments to assess the current health statusand risks within their population. Theresults can provide meaningful insight toprogramming needs and ultimately cus-tomize the wellness program to the areasof targeted change needed for your pop-ulation.Employee readiness for change. A well designed health risk assessment tool will address employee (or partici-pant) readiness for change. However,even before launching efforts to under-stand the health status and risk of thepopulation, employers may consider anemployee survey targeted to assessing overall employee interest, health con-cerns, willingness to participate, keymotivators and preferred activities tosupport wellness efforts. Do employeesprefer on-line programming or is accessto the internet a barrier? Do employeesunderstand the need for improved healthand are they willing to make personalchange to achieve certain goals? What motivates behavior change?Understanding some of the key driversfor change within the population willenable more customization of your well-ness offering.
Budget and resources.
As with anybenefit offering, careful consideration of cost and resources needed to manage theprogram is critical to a long lasting andmeaningful program offering. As withthe design of the program itself, there isa wide spectrum of budget and adminis-trative options. Health plans typicallyoffer wellness tools and programming –and sometimes at little or no cost. Thirdparty vendors play a large role in provid-ing corporate wellness, offering a la cart services to comprehensive risk assess-ment and programming support.Successful wellness programs can clearlycome in all shapes and sizes. One of themost overlooked components in offering wellness programming is the amount of corporate support and identity that isgiven to the program.Regardless of whether a program isfully administered in-house or out-sourced to a third party vendor, there isstill a tremendous need for broad basedparticipation in delivering services. Manyorganizations identify “wellness champi-ons” within the organization. Theseindividuals are the messengers of the vision for the wellness program. Theyoften help organize local activities andgenerate excitement and energy toengage their colleagues in change and infeeling supported for their efforts.
Moving from “awareness” of wellness issues to “engaging”employees in meaningful lifestylechanges.
It makes sense that new well-ness offerings begin with raising aware-ness of health and wellness education.Our medical system has been gearedtoward treating disease; not necessarilypreventing it, so the learning curve issteep. However, raising awareness of wellness won’t necessarily drive behav-ior change. Only through understanding key motivators and offering a broadarray of programming choices will youmove your population from being moreaware – to actually making lifestylechanges to improve their overall health. When reflecting on high levels of partic-ipation in biometric screenings andhealth risk assessments this fall, ask yourself whether individuals are just participating (perhaps to avoid a higheremployee contribution) or do you seemeaningful change occurring?
Tracking data and measuring results.
The ability to track and measureresults will differ by the size of organiza-tion and the type of programming that isoffered. Larger employers utilizing self funding strategies will likely have muchbetter access to information. For employ-ers whose medical programs are fullyinsured, obtaining data to prove the ROIof the wellness program may not bereadily available. However, rememberthat wellness programs can impact not only medical costs but also have beenidentified with improved productivityand reduced absenteeism – both contrib-utors to the business bottom line. If youare limited in measuring the impact onthe medical claims, then consider ana-lyzing the impact on absenteeism.Promoting the value of wellness as abroad based business strategy will openthe possibilities of restating results, andlikely improve the ability to gain the buyin and commitment of senior executives.
Sandra Kuhn, MSW, is a health care consultant at The Campbell Group, a division of Acrisure, LLC. She has over 20 years experience in working withemployers of all sizes in managing their employee benefit programs and offers specific technical expertise in worksite wellness programs.
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