Employers spend about
To offset those costs, many companies offer workplace wellness programs -- some voluntary and some required.
The programs typically include health questionnaires, bio-metric screenings, and plans to help employees quit smoking, lose weight and improve mental health. Some offer incentives, such as lower insurance premiums or cash incentives.
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Employer wellness programs have similar benefits to smoke-free policies in the workplace and can lead to better habits at work and at home, Clark County Combined Health District Health Educator
"If you have healthier employees who are less likely to have to go to the doctor for various issues, then obviously companies are going to save money on health-care expenses," she said.
And hopefully that carries over into their home lives as well, leading to healthier families, Dahlinghaus said.
"We always want them to be healthy from the start of the day to the end of the day," she said.
"It intrudes on the privacy rights of employees," Khanna said. "Most people don't sign up to work somewhere to have their employer poking and prodding and prying into their personal health lives."
The public is largely health illiterate, Khanna said, which is an indictment of the country's educational system. Only about 12 percent of
The workplace wellness industry should have become a tool for educating employees about healthy lifestyle choices and benefits, he said, rather than taking control over employees.
"When people are smarter, they want to do better things for themselves," Khanna said.
Happier, healthier workers
About 81 percent of large firms with more than 200 employees offered specific wellness programs last year and nearly a third of them offered incentives to participate according to a research from the
About 50 percent of those same companies offered both health risk assessments and bio-metric screenings.
Overweight or obese full-time workers with chronic health issues miss 450 million more days of work annually than their healthy counterparts -- a cost of more than
It's important for companies to invest in their people with their salaires, but also to create an environment that's conducive to happy and healthy workers, said
"Health and wellness are very, very critical pieces to the overall picture of an employee," Hobbs said. "The happier we are as people, the more productive we are."
Employees with poor health can create more costs for employers, he said, including higher premiums and co-pays for its workers.
"It's a healthy self-interest for a business to promote wellness," Hobbs said. "It's one of those financial areas of their business they have to be mindful of. If you're truly an unhealthy community or your workforce in particular has health issues, it does affect your ability to earn and it does affect your ability to be productive."
A 1 percent reduction in several health factors, including weight, high blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol levels, can save between
A pair of 2011 case studies of Fortune 500 company
The program produced an average of
Local wellness plans
Each participant has to complete a bio-metric screening and annual preventative visits, Noble said. The employee must also acquire points in different categories, such as classes, fitness programs, food journals and weigh-ins. The program is managed by a county employee with help from an outside vendor to make sure people qualify and avoid conflicts with federal health laws, Noble said.
"We don't want to know too much about their personal life," she said.
Several employees have lost more than 100 pounds as part of the wellness program, Noble said, but it's difficult to calculate how much money it's saving. The county has had difficulty getting information from its insurance provider, she said.
"We would hope it's working," Noble said. "Anecdotally, we can say that it's working, but we don't have enough (evidence)."
The county's wellness program encourages people to do things they wouldn't normally do, such as weighing yourself or getting your blood pressure checked, Dahlinghaus said.
"It keeps it in the front of your brain that your numbers are high and maybe you need to follow up with this," Dahlinghaus said.
An independent audit of the city of
The city intends to follow through with the recommendation in the future,
"We'll look at all options, but you have to be careful with that, too," he said. "You want to make sure employees are interested and committed to being healthier, not just doing it for the incentives."
Beginning next year, the
The company will offer a four-tiered structure, which also includes higher premiums for smokers. Employees who are non-smokers and participate in the wellness program will receive the lowest-rate. The hospital held a wellness fair earlier this year to introduce the change.
"We want to make sure if there are any underlying conditions that they may not know about, high blood pressure or a major heart event, that could be prevented by them having a wellness exam," Martin said. "Of course, we care about the people who work here, but it does help with our costs because we're self-funded and we're paying those claims."
The hospital also began a pharmacy coaching program with several local pharmacies, which helps employees keep up with medications with the help of a pharmacist, Martin said. The coaching partnership also includes a diabetes management program.
"It's a good thing to have all of that in one place," Martin said. "It's been a success."
'Poke, prod and pry'
But workplace wellness initiatives essentially coerce people into their programs under the threat of paying higher insurance premiums, Khanna said. He called the industry "a confederacy of dunces" that doesn't prevent any type of medical illness, such as diabetes or heart attacks.
"If you don't play ball, you're going to pay a higher portion of the premium," Khanna said.
He participates in a wellness program through his wife's insurance because the financial penalty for not doing so is great. But he said he hasn't learned a single thing from the program that's made a difference.
"It's more money than I'm willing to part with," Khanna said.
Quizzify doesn't ask personal information, he said, rather it serves as an education tool that teaches employees about how to make better choices.
"When you make better choices, you'll be a happier person," Khanna said. "You'll be more empowered and you won't be worried about your employer or some incompetent vendor engaged with your employer looking over your shoulder about what you do."
Good health is not an end point, Khanna said, it's a process. The best way to fix the marketplace is to educate people about making healthy choices over the long-term, he said, instead of looking over people's shoulders.
"We're still a free country," Khanna said. "I think above all else we have the right to be left alone. If you go to work and you do your job and you add value for your employer, you don't deserve to be subjected to this poke, prod and pry garbage."
Earlier this year, the
The Clark County Worksite Wellness Network meets quarterly. The group, which consists of mostly human resources and health care professionals, includes brainstorming on how to improve work-site wellness, as well as guest speakers on health topics that could affect the workplace.
If you spend 40 hours a week at work, it should be an environment with healthy options, Dahlinghaus said. Work sites can make simple changes -- more water or healthy snacks in vending machines -- or policy changes such as providing water at every meeting, standing/walking meetings or packing lunches.
"We should be trying to implement little changes throughout the day that are beneficial to your day, even if they're small changes," Dahlinghaus said.
They're hoping to partner with the
"We try to have a relationship," Weber said. "We try to take it from a transaction to a transformation."
The nonprofit organization offers different healthy living courses, such as diabetes management. It also offers wellness programs such as weight loss challenges and Couch-to-5K running events -- all of which Weber said have been successful.
"It's just like any other program, you're going to have 20 to 25 percent of people who will say its very successful," Weber said. "Some people have good intentions in getting the program moving, but it's not a convenient time in your life -- family, work issues, school, whatever it might be."
The chances of success are greater when employees have a support network of co-workers in place, Weber said.
"Small group dynamics are the key," he said.
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