Benefit-Based Incentives That Tripled Participation in Workplace Wellness

Monday, May 18th, 2009
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

David Sensibaugh, director of Integrated Health at Eastman Chemical Company, recently described how HRA completion and wellness program participation tripled when a benefits-based incentive was introduced:

Before 2006, in any given year we had about 30 percent of our employees completing an HRA, and we needed to accelerate that dramatically to get up in the 75 percent-plus participation level. In 2006 we introduced an incentive for employees to complete a health risk assessment (HRA). If they did that, then their healthcare contributions for the next year would be $600 — or about $50 a month lower than that they would be otherwise. By introducing that incentive our participation jumped that first year from 30 percent to 94 percent. As we moved into 2007, we wanted to continue this journey and build on the momentum we had established. So in addition to completing the HRA, employees were encouraged to do something else, from an educational perspective, that would be aligned with one of four areas of focus, based on their HRA data: cardiovascular, obesity, stress and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

With this incentive, 90 percent of our employees then met the condition during 2007 for the 2008 benefit year. The first year employees had to complete HRAs; 94 percent of our people did that. The second year, employees had to complete the HRA and do something else — participate in an Eastman Integrated Health-sponsored program. We were very pleased with those results. Not only did the HRA participation increase significantly — from 30 percent to 94 percent, which is about a 184 percent increase — but participation in other programs and activities increased significantly as well. Most notable of these is the increase in our healthy lifestyle coaching program called Healthy Steps, which went from about 350 participants to over 1800 participants. HealthFitness, our partner and outsource organization, managed all these things for us.

During 2007, in addition to completing the HRA, employees were encouraged to participate in an additional program. “Walk This Way” is one example of the many programs that would qualify as an Eastman Integrated Health-sponsored program. These programs help people meet that enrollment condition to obtain that $600 differential in their healthcare contribution. The participation in our walking program doubled between 2006 and 2007. In addition to participation, the results of the improvements and health risks are particularly noteworthy.

For HRAs during 2006 and 2007, well over 8,000 employees participated each year. The results indicate improvements in almost all risk factors; the body mass index (BMI) and the glucose, which is an indicator of diabetes, were the two that didn’t have an improvement. Across the board these comparisons between year one and year two are statistically significant, but the greater takeaway is that there remains a significant opportunity to improve these risk factors. We know that behavioral, lifestyle change coaching programs work. The challenge is to get people motivated to participate in these programs, so that they can achieve as well as sustain the needed behavioral change.

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