Wendy Wigger is director of wellness at Priority Health. In this position, she is responsible for developing partnerships with employer groups to reduce health costs through innovative programs that engage employees to take control of their health. She has more than 20 years of experience in the health and wellness field, combined with marketing and communications. Her areas of expertise include wellness plans, exercise, nutrition and weight management, wellness in the workplace, and health risk assessments.
Q. Do wellness programs have an impact on insurance costs to employers?
Definitely. In general, wellness studies point to a return on investment range of $3 to $6 for every $1 spent. Based on work conducted by Larry Chapman in a meta-review of 42 published studies of worksite health promotion programs, there was a return of $5.81 for every $1 invested in a worksite wellness program for avoided medical costs and absenteeism. That review also noted an average 28 percent reduction in sick-leave absenteeism, 26 percent reduction in health costs, and 30 percent reduction in workers’ compensation and disability management claims.
Q. What can employers do to promote healthier habits of their employees?
An effective wellness program relies on education, behavior change interventions and strategies for creating supportive and healthy work environments. An employer can positively influence health behaviors, reduce health risks, and optimize health and productivity through the wellness opportunities it offers to employees as well as through creating a healthy and supportive work environment. Two of the biggest behaviors that affect health are smoking and a sedentary lifestyle. Workplace wellness programs that offer smoking cessation education or a lunchtime fitness class can encourage employees to change these behaviors. You can support employees’ efforts to sustain healthy habits by implementing a smoke-free work policy, offering healthy options in the cafeteria or vending machines or creating a walking path on corporate grounds.
Q. How can an employer implement a cost-free program?
Talk to your health benefits company about what services are offered to their members. You may have discounts on gym memberships, exercise equipment, weight management programs, smoking cessation resources and much more. Understanding the opportunities offered by your health plan can help maximize your investment in employee health.