Now Reading: What works in employer wellness programs?

How do we reconcile the emerging (or post-merging) focus on gaming for health, behavior change, and employee wellness programs? This post highlights a few relevant articles.

In What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs? – Harvard Business Review

Government incentives or not, healthy employees cost you less. Doctors Richard Milani and Carl Lavie demonstrated that point by studying, at a single employer, a random sample of 185 workers and their spouses. … The bottom line: Every dollar invested in the intervention yielded $6 in health care savings.

To learn how companies can support their employees’ well-being in a way that makes good business sense, the authors conducted field visits with 10 organizations that have financially sound workplace wellness programs:

  • Biltmore—hospitality and tourism
  • Chevron—energy
  • Comporium—communications
  • Healthwise—health information publishing
  • H-E-B—grocery retail
  • Johnson & Johnson—health care products manufacturing
  • Lowe’s—home-improvement retail
  • MD Anderson Cancer Center—health care
  • Nelnet—education planning and finance
  • SAS Institute—software

After reading the above, @Lygeia and I met Ted Smith ( @tedsmithphd ), who pointed us to his artcie, Health Games, Who Wins?, with this statement about his work with employers:

Why, behind closed doors, do insurance company executives and human resources managers tell me that those who would benefit the most from these programs participate in them the least? That is to say, wellness programs have an established track record of being most effective for those who are either fit or marginally fit. They don’t work so well with people who have a high BMI or other health problems.

In the reviews below, there isn’t good evidence (yet) about the role of games in and of themselves, especially compared to things like environmental modification and healthy workplace policies/interventions.

I’m just putting this post out there for comments and also to point to examples of employers whose programs have been reviewed. Here’s a bibliography to work with, to stimulate conversation….

Ted Eytan, MD