Shaking things up to stay healthy

One of the latest videos to go viral is of a man dancing on the treadmill. A fellow gym rat caught his clever moves on what appears to be his mobile device and posted it to a popular video site.

Not only is this guy getting in a great workout, but he’s making sure he doesn’t get bored — one of the most common reasons people stop exercising.

As an employer of more than 43,000 people across the country, we at WellPoint know a thing or two about health; the health of our customers and the health of our employees. And we know how to incentivize employees to take care of themselves, with programs that not only fend off boredom but are tailored to employee needs and that show results. In fact, our flexible employee incentive wellness programs are designed to meet our employees wherever they may be on the journey to better health.

As the administration prepares to release final regulations on employee incentive wellness programs, we hope that they allow for a continuation of programs like ours, which have evidenced success and which are designed to help address our nation's escalating healthcare costs.

ADVERTISEMENT
Because one of the biggest drivers of costs for an employer is the overall health of its employee population, we started thinking about what we can do to improve the health of the WellPoint team, and make it fun and rewarding at the same time. We needed to shake things up. Just like our employees are trying new things to boost their fitness routines, we developed a three-year wellness incentive strategy that first rewarded awareness and now focuses on results.

The first year we offered a $200 wellness credit toward their health benefits for simply completing a health assessment. The second year, employees and their partners could earn up to $400; some of the money was tied to physical challenges. And in the third year, employees had earning potential of $600 credits towards their health benefits, with some of that money tied to health improvement.

The shake-up and incentives were enough to get results — our rate of obesity dropped 8 percent, we lowered our rate of high blood pressure by 42 percent and high cholesterol by 15 percent. Also, 14 percent of WellPoint employees with a BMI of more than 30 in 2011 dropped it below 30 or lost 5 percent of their body weight in a year. These results are proof that standards based wellness programs work — and earned us the recognition of the American Heart Association as a “Fit-Friendly Worksite.”

Yes, we have some employees who need a different way to earn the credits due to a medical condition. So, we are flexible in how we award credits. We want to engage every employee on a personal level and allow them to work with their own doctor to decide if the standards in our wellness incentive program make sense for them.

We understand that our employees’ journey to health and wellness is a personal one — we are there to champion efforts. While we don’t encourage our employees to risk an injury by dancing on the treadmill, we know they are making healthier lifestyle and fitness choices.

 
Brown is executive vice president and chief human resources officer at WellPoint Inc.