Health Promotion: Employee Wellness Becomes CEO Issue – How to Reduce Worksite Health Costs

The Partnership for Prevention was formed to encourage Fortune 1000 companies to consider making workforce health a CEO issue and adopt strategies to promote avoidance and wellness.

After several years of double-digit rate increases for medical insurance, organizations are realizing that one of the best ways to slow the cost increases is to have staff take more responsibility for both costs and health options.

A majority of organizations surveyed feel that the best way for decling costs is financial incentives to encourage employees to adopt healthier lifestyles.

Nearly 100 percent of corporations surveyed say that health costs will be a critical or significant concern over the next five years, as reported by a recent survey by United Benefit Advisors.

More corporations are adopting higher deductible heath plans with HRA’s or HSA’S, health promotion programs, and expanded disease management programs to control ever-increasing healthcare costs.

Failure to deal with these issues can be disastrous for an employer. Wayne Sensor, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Alegent Health recently stated, “I think that we’ve built a healthcare machinery we cannot afford. I think we are choking the economic engine of America.”

In his October 2005 newsletter, Dr. Andrew Weil stated, “I think rising health- care costs are becoming the major economic issue in our nation”. Obesity costs California companies billions of dollars each year.

Projected costs for 2005 may reach 28 billion dollars for direct and indirect health care costs, staff member’s compensation, and lost productivity. California has experienced among the fastest growing rates of obesity of any state.

According to California Health and Human Services Secretary Kim Belshe, “The obesity epidemic is more than a public health crisis, it’s an economic crisis.” What’s frightening is that most individuals don’t even realize that they’re obese, which is defined as only 20 percent above normal weight.

There’s a excellent need for more education on weight and resulting diseases, and the worksite is an ideal venue. Wellness education and programs can result in a significant return on investment and, if structured properly, can produce leads to a very short period of time.

Despite the fact that many corporations have attempted some form of wellness program in the past, results from those efforts have been disappointing.

In many cases, the healthier staff participated for incentives, such as health club memberships, but those who needed it most didn’t take advantage of the health promotion program in a meaningful way.

Companies are looking at ways to encourage more personnel to purchase into the wellness movement.

A recent webinar hosted by Human Resource Executive Magazine and presented by Carlson Marketing and Advertising Group titled, “Healthier Employees; Healthier Bottom Line –  Engaging Employees is the Missing Link in Managing Health Care Costs,” drove this point home.

This session provided actionable advice on how corporations are achieving higher impact with their wellness investments by focusing on staff member engagement. It also highlighted how you can develop an Economic Engagement Model to forecast the potential impact for your corporation.

Employers can simply no longer ignore the issue of their worker’s unhealthful life choices and must act to engage them in a meaningful wellness program to reduce health costs, absenteeism and lost productivity.

Staff Members also benefit as they derive better health and greater satisfaction in both their personal and expert lives.  The alternative is being caught in a non-competitive position and severely impacting the bottom-line of the company.