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Healthy Employees, Profitable Bottom Lines: Delivering on the Value of Health Promotion and Worksite Wellness

Guest post by Misty Christensen, MA


Dr. Rebecca Kelly, PhD, RD, CDE, director of Health Promotion and Wellness at the University of Alabama delivered a presentation at the Work and Well-Being conference in Chicago this spring in which she addressed three main topics related to promoting health and wellness in the workplace.

In her presentation, Dr. Kelly demonstrated how employer health related programs can be managed to enhance business objectives. Dr. Kelly identified key factors of employee engagement that create positive impact and health outcomes, and she also characterized the importance of incentives as part of an effective health management program.

According to Dr. Kelly, only 3 percent of the American population meets the recommended four criteria for healthy living: being non-smokers, maintaining a healthy weight, eating at least five fruits or vegetables daily and exercising for 30 minutes a day for five days a week. This alarming statistic further emphasizes the importance of promoting health and wellness in the workplace, where people spend the majority of their time.

Enhancing Business Objectives

Workers health and safety in the workplace impacts their productivity, and productivity impacts the organization’s performance and competitiveness. Employers have increasingly started investing in health and turning to wellness programs to address unhealthy behaviors. Dr. Kelly stated that many employers have also come to believe wellness programs benefit health and productivity in the workplace.

According to the Mercer’s 2012 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, there has been an 80 percent increase in healthcare costs from 1999 to 2012, due largely to treating diseases such as diabetes, pulmonary disease and cancer. Employers are faced with the challenge of increasing healthcare costs against shrinking profit margins and increasing overseas competition. Dr. Kelly offered a new way of thinking about costs that incorporates four areas of opportunities: focusing on quality of healthcare, utilizing integrated practices, providing prevention and screening and offering centers of excellence.

Key Factors for Engagement

Dr. Kelly presented on the WellBAMA program, which she directs at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. WellBAMA is a wellness program that includes awareness and an educational outreach that provides recognition by status level. The program connects employees to resources, encourages goal setting and allows for personal growth in health and wellness. Motivation to continue with the program is maintained by providing financial incentives and documented success.

According to Dr. Kelly, there are key points that can be addressed to promote employee health management. Employers must measure what they plan to manage and assess health risks that are related to health costs. Exploring new strategies and developing a strategic framework is a way employers can save money. Employers should take the time to get to know their population, as well as their specific needs and risks. By following these guidelines, an environment can be created that allows movement toward a healthy workplace.

Importance of Incentives

According to the 2013 Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health Employer Survey on Purchasing Value in Health Care, financial incentives for wellness are on the rise. More than two-thirds of companies offer financial incentives to encourage participation in company wellness activities, which is up from just over half in 2010. More companies are also extending these incentives to spouses, 52 percent among the respondents surveyed offer incentives to employees. What’s more is that incentives are increasing each year: the maximum employees can earn today at companies offering incentives is $400, and in companies that include spouses, a family can earn over $900 by taking advantage of every incentive.

Dr. Kelly concluded her presentation by offering some key points on ways employers can provide incentives. Employers should be open to generating new ideas and looking at other examples that can be connected with their organization. Think “green” when considering incentives: money, gift cards and premium reductions are effective incentives. Since biometric screening is gaining popularity, provide measures of body weight and blood work for health screening. Employers must explore their options, considering incentives for providers as well as employees. Finally, evaluate what is effective for the organization so health promotion and wellness in the workplace can continue to grow.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jessica McKenzie, MS published on September 3, 2013 5:45 AM.

Blending Technology and Customization for Successful Well-Being Outcomes was the previous entry in this blog.

I Guess Engagement Isn’t In Such a Bad Place After All is the next entry in this blog.

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