3 Reasons Wellness Programs Fail

Chelsea Rice, June 17, 2013

Despite the concerted effort of employers, industry consultants, and fitness app makers, unhealthy employee behaviors don't seem to be changing. Workplace wellness is a hot trend, but employers are struggling to find real value.

Employers, motivated to lower healthcare costs, think of wellness programs as a "soft" strategy that employees want and like. But too often, employers overlook the pitfalls that can lead to serious revenue losses. Three important gaps come to mind:  

1. Poor data tracking
Healthcare has a reputation for dragging its feet when it comes to using data to inform and drive change. With regard to employee wellness, the story hasn't changed. 

Healthcare costs are expected to average $11,188 per employee, a 6.3% increase this year. Despite the concerted effort of employers, industry consultants, and fitness app makers, unhealthy employee behaviors don't seem to be changing.  

For example, a recent RAND report shows that of those employees eligible to participate, only  

  • 21% participated in programs to improve fitness,
  • 7% participated in smoking cessation programs, and
  • 10% participated in weight or obesity management programs

Although the report suggests that participation in wellness initiatives demonstrates positive changes in employee health and wellness, those numbers are pretty low. Lower still is the number of pounds lost in those weight management programs.  

Chelsea Rice Chelsea Rice is an associate editor for HealthLeaders Media. Twitter
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