Championing Corporate Wellness

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

Scott MacStravic of the World Health Care Blog suggests that when wading into the workplace wellness pool, employers should begin with a weight management program:

Obese workers, for example, account for almost $9000 higher disability costs per case than normal-weight employees, and have significantly more cases. “Worksite Weight Management Programs Pay Off for Business” PRNewswire.com Aug 19, 2007] …

The worksite is arguably one of the best places to promote weight loss, particularly when it includes fitness centers, healthy foods in cafeteria and vending machines, walking trails, and similar support mechanisms.

He’s got the right idea. In covering workplace wellness and employee health initiatives over the last few years, we have seen employers have great success in this area by utilizing wellness champions, lunch n’ learn programs, health coaching and other outreach. By focusing on obesity as an initial wellness program, employers will no doubt reduce some other risk factors (high blood pressure, heart problems, depression) that accompany chronic illness and take their toll on productivity.

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2 Responses to “Championing Corporate Wellness”

  1. William McPeck says:

    I became aware of Scott MacStravic’s blog late this past summer. I have been impressed with his posts that I have read. I also do not disagree with him that the obesity issue is one that employers involved in worksite wellness or employee health management programs should address, for all the reasons he noted in his blog.

    Where we differ is whether weight management should be the first strategy implemented by an employer. I do not believe it should be. I say this because an effective weight management program is fairly sophisticated, involving multiple components that require simultaneous management. Some of these include weigh-ins, on-going education (nutrition, caloric intake, caloric burn rate, portion size, etc.) and physical activity. Add to that the challenges associated with not only loosing the weight, but also helping the employee keep it off. Then there is the issue of long term incentives, which many employers are just beginning to look at. To be effective, I believe you need to be in weight management for the long haul. Starting out, I think that is a lot to ask of a new program and new program coordinator.

    I think it is important that employers just starting out have a first program that is seen as being successful in the eyes of employees, managers and the C-Suite. The program should have broad appeal, be easy to understand and implement.

    For their first program, I would encourage employers to implement a physical activity type program, such as a walking program, instead of a weight management program. Walking programs can have broad appeal, are easy to understand and can be easy to implement. Several national walking program models exist such as March Into May, Shape Up America! 10,000 Steps, The President’s Challenge and others. These programs can be implemented by an employer without needing to invest any additional upfront development time or effort, unlike weight management programs.

    Walking programs can be incorporated into challenges and/or competitions as suggested by Mr. MacStravic. Most everyone can benefit from increased physical activity and it pays specific dividends in a number of chronic disease categories. Not only do walking programs help with specific diseases, walking programs can help the low risk employee stay low risk. Walking programs can help the employer and employees achieve that first important success, or win-win-win. The wins are: a win for the employer, a win for the program coordinator and more importantly, a win for the employees.

    With that first, all important win under their belt, the employer can then use the success and good-will generated by their first successful program to tackle the more difficult and intensive employee health issues such as weight management and smoking cessation.

    William McPeck
    Certified Worksite Wellness Program Consultant
    Work-Life Certified Professional
    Director, Employee Health and Safety
    Maine State Government
    207-287-6780 (voice)
    207-287-6796 (fax)
    william.c.mcpeck@maine.gov

  2. admin says:

    William,

    Thanks very much for your comment. Your suggestion is a good one. Coincidentally, we implemented a walking program in our small office last summer with much success. Besides the measurable impact on employee health, it fostered staff comraderie. It required only a small investment in pedometers for staff members and a few minutes each week for employees to record their progress. Prizes were awarded in a raffle at the end of the program.

    Patricia Donovan