Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A New Year's resolution: Pump up that wellness program

Employee Benefit Adviser
By Beth Taylor
December 1, 2009
A new year is about new beginnings. …[Now] … is a good time to pump up your … wellness programs. Whether [your] programs lost steam or never got off the ground, you can … plan for a jump-start in the new year with a few basic steps.
Start by asking … why [your] wellness program stalled or hasn't started. What is at the root of the problem? Is it not knowing where to start, a lack of senior support, too little money or not enough time? Or all of the above? … Too many times, it is far easier, although much less satisfying, to simply not deal with the issue. …
Tackle each obstacle separately, but don't try to do it alone. There is power in brainstorming with others who have the same challenges. … Perhaps you … know employer groups in the community with thriving wellness programs. … Interacting with peers creates a dynamic synergy for new ideas.
Consider online wellness support groups and other online resources, such as the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, WELCOA or There is a wealth of information and support out there. Find the champions for your cause.
Make a plan
Don't let the momentum gained from brainstorming wither and die like so many New Year's resolutions. Create a plan from the best ideas and start with what you know. … Gather information such as:
  • Employee demographics
  • Employee survey results
  • Wellness offerings from carriers
  • EAP benefits
  • Claims data
The data provide insight into employees' interests, habits and possible topics for education.
Establish a calendar of events or a timeline to serve as the framework throughout the year. A good place to start is by incorporating the national monthly observation calendar. You can download a copy from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Web site, Events such as October's Breast Cancer Awareness and November's Great American Smoke Out receive a good deal of media attention. That attention helps reinforce your … worksite activities on wellness.
Start small
Starting and sustaining a wellness program is like running a marathon. The race begins with the first step, so start small. If it's a new wellness campaign, newsletters, brochures and "lunch and learns" on specific health topics are inexpensive, manageable first steps.
… If the wellness program stalled along the way, determine why and suggest a remedy. For example, if committee meetings don't produce results, introduce some "new blood." …
Whatever steps you take, measure your results. … Use the results to adjust strategies to keep employees interested in the program. If you don't measure it, you can't manage it.
Measuring results alone, however, may not provide the whole picture. A successful program encourages feedback. Invite "letters to the editor," evaluation forms or posts to an intranet. …
Feedback and results enable you to take the pulse of your … efforts. Together, they build a strong base for future planning for a more robust and comprehensive wellness program.
Just do it
Some New Year's resolutions never make it out of the box. …[It] does not matter how small the step, doing something is better than doing nothing. There may be false starts or stumbles along the way, but [you] can't finish what [you] don't start. Make 2010 the year they pump up that wellness program. Just do it.

Taylor is a consultant and a certified wellness program manager for San Diego's Intercare Insurance Solutions.