Occupational Wellness: Employer Wellness Programs?

Yuuuup. It’s happening. 3 occ wellness posts in a week. I can’t help it! I love this research and there are some really interesting articles that are coming out right now! 

Again, this is another article from the New York Times that I my undergrad program actually tweeted about! This article examines what the benefits are to having an employee wellness program. Employee wellness programs pretty much started so employers could save money. Research was conducted that found if you educate your employees, get them to stop smoking and engaging in harmful behaviors, and remind them to take their meds, your organization benefits in terms of lower medical costs and increased productivity. If you didn’t know why employee wellness/health programs exist, that’s pretty much the main reason. There are other companies that value their employees wellbeing but for the most part, organizations in the US see a direct benefit. We take care of you, you do better work for us and don’t cost us as much. Same story rings true for people that advocate preventative health care. Cost a little bit more upfront, but if you catch a disease early on through preventative health care, it ends up being more cost effective in the long run.

This specific study is looking at the difference between these disease management programs (smoking cessation, medicine reminders for chronic conditions) versus what they call lifestyle programs (weight loss, stress management). What they found is that there is a real actual monetary benefit for organizations to invest in disease management programs but no monetary benefit in the lifestyle programs because essentially the cost and benefits even each other out. The article goes into much more detail and again, it’s a quick read and really is worth the extra 5 minutes to glance through it.

So if lifestyle programs don’t provide any monetary benefit to organizations, should they cut these programs out? No. Even though these lifestyle programs aren’t helping the org save any money, they are helping produce better employees. Who perhaps won’t become an employee that requires the disease management program. I think in the next 20 or so years, if we continue on trend for having a respect for preventative health care and emphasis not only on disease management but on lifestyle programs, we will see that there is less of a need for disease management. There will never not be a need. But if you help employees get to the basis of healthy, healthy weight and eating habits, healthy stress levels, essentially all around healthy, I predict that there will be less of a need for these disease management programs. But you as an organization have to put an emphasis on having a healthy lifestyle and supporting your employees.

That’s my 2 cents on the matter, what are your thoughts?


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