Health Beat: Wellness in the workplace

Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Westin Hotels & Resorts employees sample a variety of produce brought in for the launch of a new employee Wellness program on Oct. 21, 2011. (Associated Press)

Many businesses have realized the benefits of health promotion, and to curb the costs of rising health care they have begun offering wellness programs to their employees. Ideally, the office should be a place that not only protects the safety and well-being of employees but also provides them opportunities for better long-term health.

Although chronic diseases are among the most common and costly of all health problems, adopting healthy lifestyles can help prevent them. A wellness program aimed at keeping employees healthy is a key long-term human asset management strategy.

What is a workplace wellness program?

A workplace wellness program is a health promotion activity or organization-wide policy designed to support healthy behavior and improve health outcomes while at work. These programs consist of activities such as health education and coaching, weight management programs, health fairs, medical screenings, on-site fitness programs and more.

Wellness programs also include policies intended to facilitate employee health, including allowing time for exercise, providing on-site kitchens and eating areas, offering healthful food options in vending machines, holding "walk and talk" meetings, and offering financial and other incentives for participation. Effective workplace programs, policies and environments that are health-focused and worker-centered have the potential to significantly benefit employers, employees, their families and communities.

Looking into a wellness program?

Ask your employer if they offer a wellness or health promotion program. If not, suggest implementing one at your office. If you are an employer looking to start a program of your own, read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Worksite Health ScoreCard and other materials for recommendations on implementing a health promotion program at your workplace.

More information

The medical care costs of people with chronic diseases accounted for more than 75 percent of the nation's $2.2 trillion medical care costs in 2009. A number of studies published last year in Preventing Chronic Disease discuss wellness at work and the importance of expanding health promotion into the workplace.

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