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<i>Dear Workforce</i> How Do We Boost Participation in Our Wellness Programs

March 18, 2005
Dear Worrier:

Yours is the $64,000 question that remains largely unanswered. Although you should encourage employees to be healthy, getting them to take action is very difficult. If it were easy, wellness programs would not exist. What motivates one person to improve personal health may not motivate someone else.
Monetary rewards may be beyond your financial resources, and would have tax implications for employees. However, early data from consumer-driven health plans indicates that people are beginning to pay more attention to wellness and self-care issues when it affects their wallets.
The best thing you can do is to learn about issues that discourage employees from making positive health changes. Use focus groups or surveys to identify barriers to health improvement. Employees may complain they don't have time to exercise or attend wellness programs, or that the programs are too expensive or inconveniently located. Employees sometimes also presume that their health issues are not serious enough to merit concern. Attack each barrier head-on; it will help you encourage employees to change their behavior.
Initiate an employee-wellness committee composed of both individuals who participate in wellness programs and some who don't. Ask the committee to brainstorm for ideas to motivate other employees, including reasonable rewards or incentives.
Consider a customized employee-communication campaign that explains the connection between poor health and rising health-insurance premiums. Use employee newsletters, company meetings and other avenues to tout the success of employees who participate in wellness programs. Over time, these techniques could nudge fence-sitters into taking action.
The healthier your employee population, the greater the chance your insurance premiums will tumble. Perhaps you could link this to a modest rewards program as an incentive for employees to continue their participation in wellness programs. Of course, the point of wellness programs is not only to improve the health of employees but also to reduce health-plan costs associated with acute episodes of chronic illness. Any progress you make in this regard will help you over the long term.
SOURCE: Nancy Hakes, registered nurse and health consultant, and Dr. Tom Barela, national medical director, disease management practice, The Segal Co., Phoenix, April 21, 2004.
LEARN MORE:More Care, Less Cost.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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