Word of the Day: Wellness

The economy, the state of U.S. public health, and workers' interest in better living have combined to make wellness incentives hot this year.

Everybody's talking wellness -- everybody in the incentive business, that is, and an increasing number of major players in the health care reform debate that has the nation's capital busy in debates, strategy, and drawing up new legislation. Some form of health reform is considered likely to pass, with three key congressional Democratic leaders having promised to cooperate on enacting it during the early days of the Obama administration.

All Star Incentive Marketing CEO Brian GalonekAll Star Incentive Marketing CEO Brian Galonek recently said health incentives are a natural right now, with employers very concerned about health care costs and employees' health in the spotlight. "Wellness is the golden goose right now. Everybody's talking about it," Galonek said in January 2009. "Nine months ago, I was still pitching retention programs; companies were desperate to hold onto their talent. Wellness is the one that everybody is buzzing about now, and for good reason. You've got the Baby Boomers getting older, and their health challenges are only going to grow. We know what obesity rates are in the country, and we know the direct correlation between losing weight, being healthy, and doing a good job.

"Absolutely, we are pitching over and over again that a safety program can really be a safety, security, and wellness program. Wellness just dovetails in there nicely. We know we can support that with a rewards program. It just makes a great adjunct to an existing program."

Even in a recessionary environment, employers see the wisdom of encouraging better health, he said.

"If you were to go out and survey U.S. corporations now about whether they are currently offering a wellness program to their employees, you would find that very few are. I predict that inside of five years, wellness programs will become very popular, especially among large companies. Our challenge will be to show that any wellness program can be greatly improved by the inclusion of an incentive component that rewards them for their efforts.

"Smoking cessation would likely be a component of any wellness program, and last week, The Wall Street Journal ran a story that showed that smokers at GE that were offered an incentive to quit were 294 percent more likely to quit within the first year. The only problem with the study, from my perspective, is that the incentive they offered was cash. Imagine how much better the results would have been with a properly designed incentive program!"

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