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Workplace Wellness

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Wellness in the Workplace-Would You Participate?

According to Pelletier and Golaszewski, preventive and positive measures designed to prevent disease are big business. There are over 120 studies documenting the positive effects of health promotion on overall employee health and productivity, overall health costs, and return on investments. (Pelletier and Gozaszewski, November 2004).

Wellness is defined as "enabling individuals to increase control over and improve their health." (Center for Prevention and Health Services Issue Brief) In the workplace, there are many programs that offer the employee assistance in lifestyle changes such as weight management, smoking cessation, and disease management. Today, more than 80% of U.S. businesses with 50 or more employees have some form of a health promotion program. (Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) - December 2001). Focusing on wellness can produce reductions in the costs associated with health care.

Historically, the term "wellness" has been associated with alternative medicines. Today, however, wellness is the latest trend. Hospitals are upgrading their facilities with fewer beds, and more outpatient services. Health insurance plans are promoting wellness; in fact many are reimbursing members for gym memberships. Additionally, employers are encouraging workers to become more proactive in their own care.

The factors that have ignited the wellness movement are primarily the development of managed care, which has focused on the reduction of hospital stays, advances in technology have enabled studies to be performed on an outpatient basis, and healthcare consumers are becoming more educated. Access to information via the internet has empowered the consumer to search for information and make informed decisions in regard to their care.

The corporate world has not ignored the wellness movement. In fact, many Fortune 500 companies have been promoting wellness. According to the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4), more than 70% of these firms have Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). The PHC4 FYI- Employee Health Promotion Programs Can Help Contain Costs article demonstrates the results of studies that support the idea of Wellness. For example, one study by the University of Michigan and Johnson & Johnson show that employers can save $1,100 per year for every employee who kicks the smoking habit.

It is becoming increasing apparent that there are significant benefits to wellness programs in the workplace. Most employers are jumping on board and offering some kind of program for their employees. How receptive are the employees to the concept of wellness in the workplace?

The purpose of this study was to examine healthcare consumers and what steps they would take in order to stay well. Prevention saves healthcare dollars, decreases the cost of health insurance to the consumer and the employer, as well as reducing the rate of absenteeism in the workplace.

This study compared healthcare versus non-healthcare workers. Data collection utilized the survey technique. The survey participants were a convenience sampling of healthcare consumers. The subjects were solicited from the members of this research groups' co workers in the clinical setting, and non healthcare workers from private industry.

To provide a better understanding of the survey groups, the following graphs break down the specifics of age, gender, location, job titles and salaries of the healthcare and non-healthcare groups.

Many employers have gone to great lengths to be able to offer employees outside resources to enhance their lives outside of work and to promote employee happiness and greater productivity while at work. Programs currently available to employees include free or discounted gym memberships, health cafeteria food choices for meals and snacks, weight watchers at work and health risk assessments. The problem is that many organizations offer these programs to select employees, but fail to make them available to the masses. Much of what is offered has a price in one way or another which makes access to the programs unavailable to many. Location of the program and time of day that the programs are offered impact which employees may take advantage of them.

As a means of reducing risk for associates, many organizations over the last several decades have introduced worksite health promotion programs. Such programs have traditionally resulted in reduced absenteeism, improved employee retention, reduced health care costs, and employee satisfaction. Bruce, David Murray, Promoting Employee Health: Industrial Relations in Practice Series. Palgrave Macmillan, 1990. Employers are also assisting employees in retirement planning, and now they understand the need to educate associates regarding those lifestyle factors, which are most likely to assure their reaching their retirement years in good health. Byham, William, Cox, Jeff, Materna, Sharyn, and Shomo, Kathy Harper, Zapp! Empowerment in Health Care: How to Improve Patient Care, Increase Job Satisfaction and Lower Health Care Costs. Ballantine Books, 1993. There is increasing evidence that health promotion and wellness programs have proven successful for many organization and associates. Most chronic diseases are associated with lifestyle choices. Anderson, Rebecca Cogwell, Promoting Employee Health: A guide to Worksite Wellness. 2nd edition American Society of Safety Engineers, 1999. Among these are heart disease, cancer, and chronic debilitating diseases such as arthritis and diabetes. Contemporary lifestyle may be an associated factor in the development and progression of these diseases. Sloan, Richard P., Investing in Employee Health: A guide to Effective Health Promotion in the Workplace. Jossey-Bass Inc Publications. 1987. Education regarding prevention and management of these diseases may reduce loss of life, improve quality of life, and better utilize financial resources. Additionally, screening programs for early detection and assessment of risk factors for these diseases may prove a valuable component of the educational program. Early detection reduces absenteeism, often reduces the cost of treatment, and improves the prognosis.

Early in the development of an employee comprehensive wellness program it is necessary for a company to assess its needs. Evaluating accident and Workers Comprehension records and illness reports as well as medical records, particularly those associated with insurance



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