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Health Economist Blasts Wellness Programs

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, July 15, 2013

More money doesn't help incentives, yet incentives doubled in last four years. The incentive payment itself is greater than the amount being spent on the bad habit.  

HLM: How does an employer redeem an existing program to make sure it's serving employees appropriately?

Lewis: Let go of the large consulting firms. If they are supporting wellness, they want to generate more activity. When you get independent consultants, they won't have any stake in the outcome.  

Make a two-by-two matrix and put in one column, 'These are things we do to our employees in the name of wellness.' Then the second column, 'These are things we do for our employees in the name of wellness.'  

Then take as many things as possible out of the first category, and realize these things are such bad ideas that we have to pay people to do them. Instead, examine what you can do for your population so that they will like your program so much they will voluntarily sign up.

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6 comments on "Health Economist Blasts Wellness Programs"


Bryan Noar (7/17/2013 at 8:12 PM)
This was just published today ... based on the numbers, perhaps it should be considered for workplace wellness programs: http://markets.cbsnews.com/cbsnews/news/read/24655964/Workplace_Wellness_Cost_Analysis

Al Lewis (7/16/2013 at 7:35 PM)
Thank you for the thoughtful comments. Mr. Broner, perhaps it won't surprise you to know that many hospitals serve junk in their cafeterias AND have wellness programs. The goal of the hospital is for employees to eat on-site rather than spend time going elsewhere, so they serve what people like to eat.

Steve Lippert (7/16/2013 at 2:52 PM)
Author paints with such a broad brush. After telling us what a waste most wellness programs are, he then suggest building trails, workout facilities etc. Now who benefits from that? Of course, all the motivated healthy people that probably aren't your problem anyway. Bottom line to me is that if people choose to live unhealthy, no amount of coaxing may change that. But at least they can PAY more for their unhealthy behavior. Our author doesn't seem to consider/understand that.