Take Advantage of Wellness
According to a Rand Corporation report about half of U.S. employers offer wellness programs. The bigger the employer, the bigger the program, many of which include risk assessments. Despite evidence that wellness is associated with lower healthcare costs and use, less than half of employees undergo screening or participate.
Our small hospital offers a great wellness program. We have health fairs, risk assessments, smoking cessation programs, team challenges e.g. losing weight, and an employee gym. Yet participation seems poor to me.
A 2010 National Institute for Health Care Reform research brief states, “While employer wellness programs have spread rapidly in recent years, few employers implement programs likely to make a meaningful difference in employees’ health...” Experts believe financial incentives are the most effective way to ensure employee buy-in.
This isn’t a matter of employee greed. Undergoing a health risk assessment and sharing this information with an employer can be unsettling. As the Los Angeles Times asked last year, “Would you be willing to share with your employer how much you eat, drink, smoke, or exercise?” Studies of wellness program effectiveness show mixed results; financial incentives can get employees in the door, but sustained gains are still a challenge.
I haven’t been involved in our hospital’s wellness programs, I’ll confess. But I exercise every day at home, which works for me. I don’t smoke, hardly ever drink, don’t have hypertension, and my knees still work. I appreciate how difficult it can be to commit to wellness. It isn’t easy to find the time, energy, or motivation when you have to work so hard for so little. Slow, incremental improvement is the reality of daily exercise. It’s boring and it hurts.
But it’s worth it to take advantage of a wellness program. If your employer offers one, it can be a win-win, reducing their risk and increasing your satisfaction in the long run. I don’t believe there is any hidden agenda to coerce employees to reveal healthcare information about themselves. Good health benefits all, and what better place to learn about health? Finding your inner motivator is the challenge.
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