Health Promotion initiatives comes in many different forms, but the main purpose is to encourage individuals to take preventive measures to avert the onset or worsening of an illness or disease and to adopt healthier lifestyles.
Employers may utilize a wide range of health promotion initiatives, from an onsite gym to simple newsletters.
While some businesses have instituted very comprehensive health promotion programs, others have achieved savings or increased productivity with just a few simple activities.
What’s most important is to get started. Having a plan, along with one or two health promotion activities, can serve as a foundation for building a more comprehensive program down the road.
Why Health Promotion in the Workplace?
Health promotion in the workplace is an investment in your most important asset, your employees. Studies have shown that employees are more likely to be on the job and performing well when they are in optimal physical and psychological health. Employees are also more likely to be attracted to, remain with, and value a company that values them. Wellness in the workplace improves company productivity by:
- Attracting the most talented workers;
- Reducing absenteeism and lost time;
- Improving on-the-job time utilization and decision making; and
- Improving employee morale, which leads to a reduction in turnover.
In addition to improved productivity, health promotion programs have proven to be an effective tools in slowing the growth of health care costs. Choosing healthier alternatives may reduce an employee’s chances of suffering from disease. Less disease means employers can lower health plan use, thereby lowering health benefit costs, and in turn increasing the bottom line.
While medical cost savings from corporate wellness programs may be less evident than productivity gains, studies show that medically high-risk employees are medically high-cost employees as they use more health care and generate higher claim costs.
Finally, by investing in worksite wellness programs and initiatives, employers will be helping America achieve its two major Healthy People 2010 worksite specific objectives:
- 75 percent of all employers, regardless of size, offering a comprehensive employee health promotion program; and
- 75 percent of all employees participating in employer-sponsored health promotion activities
Best Practices When Developing a Health Promotion Program
The Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA), an organization dedicated to wellness in the workplace, has identified the seven best practices (“The Seven C’s”) for employers to follow when building a comprehensive, effective corporate wellness program within their organization.
- Capture senior-level support. A commitment from the top is critical to the success of any health promotion initiative. Management must understand the benefits of the program for both the employees and the organization and be willing to put funds towards its development, implementation and evaluation. Descriptions of what competitors are doing in the way of wellness programs and even linking wellness goals to business goals, values and strategic priorities will help to secure senior management support. Managers who “walk the talk” and take part in the initiatives and activities will go a long way to driving others to participate as well.
- Create a health promotion team. All teams should include a cross-section of potential program participants including employees. Your team should include individuals who will have a role in program development, implementation and evaluation. This ensures broad ownership of the program and more innovative ideas. A team based approach will help to garner “buy in” from both management and the participants, develop a program that is responsive to the needs of all potential participants, and will be responsible for overseeing all of the company’s wellness efforts.
- Collect data that will drive your health promotion initiatives. Once your team is in place and management is on board, it is time to gather baseline data to help assess employee health interests and risks. The results of your data collection will guide you in what kind of health programs to offer. This process may involve a survey of employee interest in various health initiatives, health risk assessments, and claims analysis to determine current employee disease risk.
- Craft an annual health promotion operating plan. For your health promotion program to succeed, you must have a plan. An annual health promotion operating plan should include a mission statement for the program along with specific, measurable short-and long-term goals and objectives. Your program is more likely to be successful if it is linked to one or more of the company’s strategic initiatives, as it will have a better chance of maintaining the support of management throughout the implementation process. A written wellness plan also provides continuity when members of the health promotion committee change and is instrumental in holding the team accountable to the goals, objectives, and timeline agreed upon.
- Choose appropriate health promotion initiatives. The health promotion initiatives that you choose should flow naturally from your data (survey, HRA aggregate report, claims) to goals and objectives. They should address prevailing risk factors in your employee population and be in line with what both management and employees want from the programs and/or initiatives.
- Create a supportive environment. A supportive environment provides employees with encouragement, opportunity, and rewards. A culture of health that supports worksite health promotion might have such features as healthy food choices in their vending machines, a no-smoking policy and flexible work schedules that allow workers to exercise. A workplace that values health will celebrate and reward health achievements and have a management team that models healthy behavior. Most importantly, a culture of health involves employees in every aspect of the wellness program from their design and promotion to their implementation and evaluation.
- Consistently evaluate your health promotion outcomes. Evaluation involves taking a close look at your goals and objectives and determining whether you achieved your desired result. Evaluation allows you celebrate goals that have been achieved and to discontinue or change ineffective programs and/or initiatives.