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Frequent Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can health promotion programs actually improve employee health status?

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 the studies?

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 behaviors.

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 company?

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 financial outcomes?

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.