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Monday, October 20, 2014

Corporate Wellness Debate

From a company HR department to employees about their wellness program and related communications.

Sadly, I'm not surprised some naysayers were vocal with their petty grievances (I mean shoot you can just delete the email and instead of stressing and taking your "valuable" time to send a negative comment...how about go for a walk or take a deep breath to reduce your stress?) and so appreciate her thoughtful reply.

Subject: Another Annoying Wellness Email

Body: That’s right, another one… why do we bother?

Well, I’ve gotten feedback that some employees feel that our Wellness Program is a waste of time and effort and that some find the communication a bother. I want to assure you that there are important reasons for all this Wellness “stuff.”

Actually closer to a $million reasons – as that was the initial amount of our insurance cost increase earlier this year. Due to the health status and claims utilization of our organization, we were facing a very large renewal increase. I don’t know about you, but if given the choice of spending another million dollars towards insurance—and that cost increase would be shared by the company and employees—or spending those same company assets instead on merit increases, stronger 401(k) match and more wellness activities, I know where I would like those dollars to go.

And we DID fund those other items – we did increase our 401(k) match and had merit increases at [our company] in part because we were able to significantly reduce our insurance renewal. How did we do that? A big factor was how [our insurance company] viewed our wellness program and associated activities: biometrics so employees know their health numbers and can take actions to improve; step challenges to show we are increasing our activity levels; and they especially valued wellness incentive focus. By showing our commitment to improving the overall health of our employees, we were able to negotiate with them and reduced our renewal substantially.

[Our company] also needs healthy, productive employees to be successful. The company is committed to helping you reach better levels of health which brings benefits to both you and us. We are focusing on activities that are good for everyone but that also target the areas identified as needing serious attention: prevention and management of chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, improving eating habits and increasing fitness levels, and better stress management.

We know that a wellness program won’t “cure” all of our current claim issues. Prevention isn’t going to immediately help someone who is already battling cancer or who has had a heart attack. Thankfully, just a small part of our population is experiencing these serious health situations that are so difficult to fight and tend to have high medical expenses. But, a much bigger part of our population has health conditions that, if not attended to, may turn into conditions that are personally and financially challenging.

As we reported earlier in the year on our Wellness Report Card:

· 22% of employees have high blood pressure that is not yet being managed by medication or behavior modification.

· 64% of employees have a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 25 or higher putting them at risk for weight related health issues.

· 25% of employees report that they have high levels of stress.

These aren’t folks in the hospital (yet) causing large claims – these are folks who have a chance to NOT be the next heart attack or dialysis patient. Knowing the numbers of your blood pressure, your waist circumference, your cholesterol levels, etc. are the first steps in preventing a bad outcome for you later. This is where our Wellness Program comes into play. We want to help you improve your health by providing data, information, resources and opportunities to take action, prevent future health issues and have accountability for your own health.

The promise of an employer to create a culture of wellness is not a waste of time or money – it’s a risk management approach that has positive outcomes by creating healthy, happy and more productive employees who also see the benefit of improved health in their lives outside of work and with their families.

So, why Wellness? Wasted time and a bother? Not when you see behind-the-scenes and realize how important your health is to us all.