About Wellness Corporate Solutions

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Friday Wellness Roundup

If it's Friday, it's time for another roundup of the week's news and notes from the world of corporate wellness.

Our friends at the Wellness Councils of America have made available a great new [free!] employee presentation on stress and healthy eating--including a ready-to-roll PowerPoint and employee handouts.

The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, published a report arguing that consumer-directed health plans actually inhibit disease prevention rather than encourage it. It's pretty much a one-sided argument against CDHPs. But no matter what your political persuasion (or what your company is currently offering to employees) it's worth a look.

And from the other side of the political spectrum, the Conference Board, comes a report stating that obesity costs corporate America $45 billion per year. Among the report's findings [quoting from the press release here]:
  • Obesity is associated with a 36-percent increase in spending on healthcare services, more than smoking or problem drinking. More than 40 percent of U.S. companies have implemented obesity-reduction programs, and 24 percent more said they plan to do so in 2008.
  • Estimates of ROI for wellness programs range from zero to $5 per $1 invested. ROI aside, these programs may give companies an edge in recruiting and retaining desirable employees. Meanwhile, some say it may be more effective just to award employees cash and prizes for weight loss rather than devote resources to long-term wellness programs.
  • Employers need to weigh the risks of being too intrusive in managing obese employees against the risks of not managing them. There is evidence that as weight goes up, wages go down. Employers should be fully aware of any potential discrimination risk before addressing employees' weight, whether for the employee's own good or that of the company.
  • The jury is still out on the costs and benefits of paying for employees' weight-loss surgeries. While obese employees medically eligible for bariatric surgery (about 9 percent of the workforce) have sharply higher obesity-related medical costs and absenteeism, some say companies are unlikely to recoup surgery costs before these employees have left for other jobs.
  • How employers communicate a wellness or weight-loss program is as important as how they design it. Companies should involve employees in planning health initiatives, rather than working from the top-down, and should make sure personal privacy is protected.
All food for thought (no pun intended). We'll pick up the action next week. Meantime, have a happy and healthy weekend.

In good health,

Fiona

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