Business Case of Wellness Programs Under Scrutiny

By Staff Report

Aug. 26, 2004

Employers’ efforts to get their employees in shape–under the assumption that such programs will reduce health costs–are all the rage. But according to The Washington Post “the case for employer involvement in health promotion isn’t yet clear-cut, at least as it concerns the bottom line.”

“What’s lacking is clear data that [employer] intervention reduces costs,” says Bill Dietz, director of the Centers for Disease Control’s Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, which recently launched a $14 million study of workplace wellness programs. And according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, employees aren’t particularly interested in health-promotion programs at work and lose whatever interest they do have quickly.

Ron Z. Goetzel, director of Cornell University’s Institute for Health and Productivity Studies tells the Post that the most financially effective wellness programs are those that target specific diseases such as diabetes as well as such behaviors as smoking, as opposed to fitness-club discounts. Fitness-club perks are often used by people who normally exercise anyway and don’t do much to encourage couch potatoes to improve their health, he says. More information on wellness, disease management, obesity and related topics is available online.

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