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Integrating corporate health and wellness programs

Healthcare costs continue to rise, and the only way to mitigate this potentially unsustainable trend is to focus on prevention rather than treatment, according to Employee Benefit News.

In the workplace, this can be achieved by implementing wellness-based incentive programs. The initiatives are designed to improve the health of a company's workforce, which will in turn decrease the employer's healthcare premiums.

In the current economic climate, wellness programs are often seen as an increasingly desirable way to reduce costs associated with healthcare. A Fidelity Investments/National Business Group on Health study conducted last year showed that employers are committing more funding to wellness incentives. Companies spent an average of $430 on wellness efforts per employee in 2010 – an increase of nearly two-thirds from the previous year.

However, employers often struggle with implementing, promoting and tracking multiple programs, and the scope of programs varies widely from encouraging employees to take part in one-time events such as completing a health risk assessment or participating in a sponsored walk to instituting regular behaviors.

Merely setting up these programs is not enough. According to a survey by Forrester Research, as many as nine out of 10 employees are unaware that the company they work for offers certain programs. Those who are aware of their employer's complete range of wellness efforts often experience program fatigue. This results when there are too many programs, incentives and communications put forward by the company for workers to ascertain what they need to do, how and when they need to do it and whether it's even worth doing in the first place.

This makes it difficult for organizations to measure effectiveness and make accurate business decisions based on allocating incentives, adding or discontinuing programs and communicating with employees.

According to Ed Dougherty, vice president of client and member services for Virgin HealthMiles, adopting an integrated approach to corporate wellness programs can combat these problems.

"In this day of information overload, bringing programs together and making things simple for employees can lead to much greater understanding, higher engagement and better results when it comes to the multiple health programs organizations offer," writes Dougherty for the news source. "With an integrated approach, employers have one central place to communicate with and motivate employees, and cohesively promote and manage the programs they offer."