Study Finds Strong Global Growth for Workplace Health, Wellness Programs
The report, Working Well: A Global Survey of Health Promotion and Workplace Wellness Strategies, was conducted by Buck Consultants, a human resource and benefits consulting firm. Researchers found that although there is strong global growth for wellness programs, they are still most prevalent in North America, with 82 percent of responding employers offering them.
According to the survey, the fastest-growing components of global wellness initiatives around the world included technology-driven tools, such as Web portals, online programs, and personal health records. Other rapidly growing program elements included health fairs, healthy vending machine food choices, and workplace health competitions. Use of these program components will grow significantly over the next three years, researchers said.
The survey found that business objectives for wellness programs also varied by international location. In the United States, health care cost reduction continued to be the top goal. Canadian employers cited improving productivity as the primary objective, while in Europe the top goal was improving workforce morale.
"This broad range of objectives is not surprising," said Barry Hall, a principal at Buck Consultants who directed the survey. "In fact, it shows how versatile wellness initiatives can be in addressing a variety of employers' challenges around the world."
The survey also assessed how effectively today's wellness initiatives meet employers' business objectives. Among U.S. respondents, only 16 percent reported a reduction in health care cost trend rate attributable to their wellness initiatives, with an average reduction of 2 to 5 trend percentage points per year.
"Large employers that are able to realize a 2 to 5 percent reduction in health care cost trend are gaining significant savings in total health expenditures," Hall said. "But equally significant is our finding that two-thirds of U.S. employers have not measured the impact of their wellness programs on health cost savings."
Researchers found that incentive rewards have increased 45 percent since Buck's 2007 survey. U.S. respondents spent an average of $145 per employee per year on wellness incentive rewards, up from an average of $100 last year. Twelve percent of U.S. respondents spent more than $500 per employee per year. Hall said such incentives, designed to improve employee participation and engagement in wellness program activities, are more prevalent in the United States but are offered by employers in all parts of the world.
November 4, 2008
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