Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Incentives Key to Wellness Programs

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Incentives Key to Wellness Programs

Article excerpt

Eat right, exercise regularly, get plenty of rest and see the doctor routinely for checkups. We all do that, right?

Well, no, and that's a problem for companies offering wellness programs.

If, for example, a company starts a walking program for its employees and offers a T-shirt and water bottle to those who sign up, says Bill Sims Jr., president of Bill Sims Co., a performance improvement company, it's common to find that the company "spent a whole lot of money on water bottles and T-shirts and the people who cleaned up are the people who were healthy anyway."

"For the people we most desperately needed to reach, such as smokers and marginal diabetics, we didn't have a big enough incentive to get them to change their behavior," Sims says.

Sims says incentives are needed for wellness programs to achieve enough participation among employees to have an impact on health care costs, but he believes the incentives must be structured so that they are "very significant" for the "three-pack-a-day smokers" yet still offer something for low-risk employees.

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Sims recommends companies begin with a health risk assessment (HRA) in order to survey their employee population and determine which employees are at elevated risk for chronic diseases. …

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