Health Promotion: Health Promotion Programs Now as Important as Cost and Workforce Issues

25% Jump in Corporation Interest in Employee Wellness

Employee wellness for their employees, corporations are discovering, is good for the health of their organizations as well. Wellness programs help to cut the costs associated with poor employee health, which include absenteeism, loss of productivity and poor work quality.

A recent Hewitt Associates survey of over 500 U.S. organizations indicated a meaningful paradigm shift in how organizations view health benefits for their workers.

Of those surveyed this year, 88 percent are committed to instituting long-term health care assistance programs (over the next 3-5 years) for their employees, with the goal of improveing the health and productivity of their workforce. This represents a 25 percent increase in interest in wellness programs over 2007.

A strong offering of wellness programs to meet the demand has resulted. Health assistance providers have broadened their wellness programs with tools that address general lifestyle factors, physical, social and psychological health factors.

Programs look to predict chronic disease in their personnel and give them the tools and the information to prevent it. Organizations also demand a way to measure the effectiveness of their health care spending.

Self-care is our motive, says Vic Lebouthillier, president of progressive wellness provider Exan Wellness.”We really believe giving personnel tools to help them manage their own health, and promoting the benefits, while giving individuals  resources to reach out for help is the key to successful lifestyle change.

Businesses are also telling us they need a cost-effective way to deliver wellness programs.  The type of wellness program we’ve developed over years delivers the highest healthcare return on investment.”

Combining employee health promotion promotions, online assessments and health trackers, online health information, telephone conferences and self-help groups, and access to a broad variety of health professionals, is behind the success of the Exan health promotion program. “Having online statistics about employees’ health also makes it easier to track the bottom line – Return On Investment” says Vic Lebouthillier.

Organizations are moving beyond their traditional role as a provider of healthcare benefits to develop holistic wellness programs that pinpoint the specific health needs of their staff member populations, drive staff member behavior change and eliminate barriers to healthcare, says Jim Winkler, leader of Hewitt’s health management consulting practice.

Notwithstanding, in a separate survey of 30,000 workforce, 74% said that, although they felt their company had an obligation to help them understand how to use their health benefits program, only 12% felt the company had any right to tell them how to be healthful.

Based on these results, corporations need to drive home the fact that improved health is better for their employees as well as the company. It’s a win-win situation.

Corporations and staff members did find common ground when it came to future healthcare. Both surveys indicate that 95 percent of staff members understand that their taking care of their health today will impact future healthcare payments.

A similar percentage also understand the important of early detection and avoidance when it comes to saving on healthcare costs.

Cost is important for most businesses as well. Over 80% of those surveyed made cost mitigation a priority for 2008, but those cuts didn’t involve shifting responsibility for healthcare onto workers.

Even though 64% of businesses have shifted costs to their workers, only 17% plan to do so in the next 3-5 years. In like manner with health reimbursement accounts, 20% now offer these, but only about 5% plan to use them in 2008.

These survey causesdicate corporations are getting more proactive in helping their workforce to change behaviors and take ownership of their own health futures. This is clearly good for the well-being of workforce, but also for the well-being of the corporations they work for.

Nearly half the companies surveyed were convinced that changing health behaviors was key to increased productivity and lower absentee rates. Over 60 percent plan to institute wellness programs that help staff members change and/or sustain a healthier lifestyle.

Almost of these companies will also use data and measurements to ensure their healthcare strategies meet their healthcare objectives?