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Building a Culture of Wellness and the Affordable Care Act

PATTY MURPHY
HNI Health Systems Consultant

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) encourages worksite wellness programs to become part of the national public health strategy.

report recently shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains the connection between public health and worker health envisioned in the ACA.BuildingACultureofWellness

Chronic disease is expected to cost the national health care system about $4.2 trillion annually by 2023.

The report found wellness programs are underused, and the future benefits of healthy employees are significantly underestimated relative to the cost of wellness programs.

Building a culture of wellness yields a notable ROI. A 2010 article found that wellness programs return $3.27 for every dollar spent on worksite wellness programs.

The Prevention and Public Health Fund of the ACA is creating workplace wellness programs. The PPHF includes $200 million for small business wellness plan grants.

The funding for most ACA programs is covered by mandatory spending, but some initiatives receive discretionary funding, and other priorities compete for those dollars.

Why Building a Culture of Wellness Matters

Conditions in the workplace are changing. By 2020, 20% of the workforce will be 55 or older. Acute injuries have decreased, but chronic conditions such as depression, anxiety, and diabetes have increased.

Building a culture of wellness can help workers better manage their chronic illnesses.

Companies with a strong culture of wellness can extend wellness into their communities. They equip their employees with wellness strategies, which in turn can be shared with family and friends.

Companies with a strong culture of wellness also record better financial outcomes and lower employer turnover.

The report found a successful wellness program is:

  • Tailored to the population
  • Creatively marketed
  • Embraced by top management

Companies can evaluate wellness programs by looking at cost savings, risk reduction, quality of life, and productivity.

Wellness Program Strategies

How can an employer encourage employees to embrace wellness initiatives?

According to the report, employees respond to economic incentives. Cash, gift cards, and health plan benefit discounts worked an average of 73% of the time.

Companies are encouraged to offer employees rewards that have a high value to the individual. For example, employees may earn points for healthy behavior that they can apply toward music downloads, free flights, or retail discounts. The absolute cost (of the prizes) is low, but the value to the employee is high.

The report found a lottery system might help change health behaviors. For example, employees may have a 1 in 5 chance daily for a $10 award if the employee’s ID number is randomly selected and weight loss goals have been met.

The vision of the ACA includes combining public health policy with worker wellness. The nation’s economic health depends on healthy workers.

How have you been building a culture of wellness at your company? How have your shared your “culture of health” with your community at large — perhaps by sponsoring a fun walk/run or by planting an urban garden? Please share in the comments!

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Topics: Construction Transportation Manufacturing HR / Employee Benefits