Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can health promotion programs actually improve employee
A: Yes, numerous reviews of the literature since 1996 by the Center for Disease
Control or the American Journal for Health Promotion have shown good
documentation of health program’s effectiveness. Of the studies reviewed, all
showed that worksite wellness programs could produce significant improvement in
employees’ health. Even 400 individual studies using non-leading edge program
designs have had an effect of improving employees’ behavior to reduce risks.
Q: Will any wellness program design produce results similar to those reported in
A: No, programs that do not follow the designs of those studies will not get
similar improvements in employees’ health with concomitant savings of costs. To
achieve maximum return on investment a wellness program must include employees
understanding that the program is a highly valuable personal benefit to gain
strong participation; an educational component, similar to safety training, to
develop motivation and commitment in employees to change to healthier behaviors;
a personal assessment of each employees’ specific opportunities for wellness
improvement; employee accountability through personal coaching over a period of
months; and incentives to reinforce and establish positive health habits.
Q: Once a wellness program is initiated, how long is it until health
improvements are seen in employees?
A: Programs that are similar in design to those of the reviewed studies or have
the components mentioned above have shown positive health behavior changes is as
little as 6 months. In terms of measurable results, a decrease in the
absenteeism is first usually observed. For companies with means of measuring
productivity, increases can begin to show up in the 6 months to 12-month time
frame. Reductions in health plan premium increases may not occur until 2 or
three years after initiation when health care claims have shown to a significant
decline. To achieve these long term results requires that the programming be
sustained, because studies have shown that if the program is stopped or the
employees stop participating they will begin to revert to old, negative wellness
Q: Where will financial outcomes result from wellness training programs that
improve employee health?
A: There four tangible outcomes that impact a company’s bottom line: costs
associated with health plans, sick leave costs, reduced worker’s comp costs and
disability costs. There are also intangible results that will also increase a
company’s bottom line: increased employee productivity; including work
effectiveness, improved decision making, increased customer rapport and
retention through improved service, and revenue generation.
Q: How much of an employer’s medical costs are related to poor health habits
that could be changed through a wellness training program?
A: The American Journal of Health Promotion found that approximately 25% of all
outpatient and inpatient health plan claims were related to seven major health
risks. These risk factors include poor nutrition, inadequate exercise,
insufficient sleep, being over weight which increase the occurrence of
infection, diabetes, heart disease and cancer which are the major drivers for
health care utilization costs. These are the risks that an effective wellness
program needs to address to be effective. Experts in the field of workplace
wellness estimate that 30% to 60% of health plan costs could potentially be
reduced or avoided altogether. One expert even estimates that 70% of health
costs are potentially preventable.
Q: What health promotion programs will bring a faster financial return for a
A: Programs that avoid near term expensive health care; such as high-risk
pregnancy prevention, screenings to detect potential for heart attack and
stroke, minimize communicable disease, stress reduction and injury prevention
both on and off the job. The savings from the success of these programs can be
used to fund more comprehensive
Q: How confident can a business be that wellness programs will have positive
A: Very! The evidence for positive financial outcomes from worksite wellness
programs is much stronger than the evidence that business leaders use to make
other decisions that impact their bottom line.
Q: How much does an effective wellness training program cost?
A: Programs that only require an employer to only invest $10 to $50 per employee
per year are the least likely to produce a good return on investment. The
literature reports that about half of employees will use one or more programs
over a two-to-five-year period for programs in the $50 to $100 per employee per
year. Companies that invest $100 to $300; a fraction of 1% of health plan
premiums; per employee per year in a comprehensive program can expect the best
return; between 200% to 600%. National companies that have demonstrated this
include: Coors Brewing – 615%, Bank of America – 600%, Kennecott – 578%,
Equitable Life – 533%, General Mills – 390%, Travelers Corp. – 340%, Motorola –
315%, Dupont – 205%.
Q: Is investing in workplace wellness worth it for a business?
A: Yes, each business must look at its own situation, especially its average
health care cost for each employee, usually in the range of $4000 to $8000 per
year. The investment of a few hundred dollars per employee with an ROI of
several hundred percent can be a major offset to those healthcare costs. No
other investment is a business is can provide that kind of return. In fact, with
the projected continued increasing rates on health care premiums in coming
years, business that do not invest in employee wellness are likely to see their
bottom line turn from black to red.