WELCOA Offers Timely Wellness Strategies

Employers can find money-saving tips galore in two special reports available free from the Wellness Council of America. WELCOA is an Omaha, Neb.-based not-for-profit organization that has grown to a membership of more than 3,200 organizations in its three decades of existence. Founded by business and health leaders on a model established by William Kizer Sr., chairman emeritus of Central States Indemnity, and WELCOA founding directors that included former Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan and Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffet, WELCOA has become a leading advocate of workplace wellness programs nationwide.

WELCOA's belief statement includes these:

  • A healthy workforce is essential to America's continued growth and prosperity.
  • Much of the illness in the U.S. is directly preventable.
  • The workplace is an ideal setting to address health and well-being.
  • Workplace wellness programs can transform corporate culture and change lives.

One of the largest publishers of health and wellness information in the United States, WELCOA distributes 3 million copies of The Well Workplace newsletter to some 1,100 organizations, almost 2 million health and wellness brochures, and 150,000 Lifestyle Management guides annually. The organization makes many of its materials available free at its Web site and says 550,000 downloads of papers, interviews, and other materials were made last year from the site. The two special reports are among the materials currently available at no charge.

'Top 5 Strategies'
"Top 5 Strategies to Enhance the ROI of Worksite Wellness Programs in Economically Challenging Times" is written by Steven G. Aldana, Ph.D., CEO of WellSteps and an adjunct faculty member of the University of Illinois School of Medicine. The title page indicates Aldana "has spent his career researching and teaching about the impact of lifestyle on disease and quality of life."

In the paper, Aldana explains WellSteps came about as a way to pair wellness with peer-reviewed scientific data that show which behavior change programs are most effective. The company developed the WorkSteps ROI calculator (www.wellsteps.com) to help others understand how their programs can be improved. It does this by allowing users to determine how much they are spending on health care, absenteeism, and presenteeism caused by poor employee health.

The paper lays out some basic truths: Wellness programs can't be expected to lower health care costs dramatically, and self-insured work sites will save more from their wellness efforts than sites that do not self-insure.

Aldana says these are the Top 5 Strategies:

1. Tap into your insurance plan's willingness to pay for wellness.

2. Create a benefit plan design so wellness can be cost neutral.

3. Implement work site policies and environmental changes that support healthy living.

4. Use the right wellness message to increase participation, improve morale, and enhance engagement.

5. Make use of all your free community resources.

'Financial Wellness'
"Financial Wellness: Thrifty Ideas for Turbulent Times" is written by Jeff S. Rubleski, MBA, director of sales strategy for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and adjunct professor of finance at Grand Valley State University. He previously was marketing strategist and COO of WELCOA, where he introduced The Well Workplace health newsletter.

His report recommends actions business leaders can take to save money on costly benefit plan options. Those actions include examining the company's current health insurance plans; evaluating and possibly offering "voluntary" benefits options (such as critical illness insurance, dental, vision, disability income, and individual life insurance) that employees choose and pay for themselves out of payroll deductions; and targeting wellness program financial incentives.

"Take a look at strategic incentive programs to encourage employees to complete a health risk assessment, to participate in focused care and disease management programs and to encourage healthy behaviors related to nutrition, weight management and exercise," Rubleski advises. "Properly designed incentives linked to your health insurance plan can dramatically increase employee participation in targeted programs and also identify those employees who have elevated risk factors, which have a direct impact on healthcare costs and the well-being of your employees."

Rubleski also urges employers to take steps to boost their workers' financial literacy. His report includes worksheets for calculating personal net worth and monthly cash flow for budgeting purposes.

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