One of the most important trends in employer-sponsored health insurance over the past few years is the growth of wellness programs. In fact, a number of recent surveys show that from 75% to 86% of all employers now offer wellness programs to help employees improve their health and lower future health care costs.
But offering programs and getting employees to use them are two different kettle of fish: A 2008 study by HR consultant Hewitt Associates found that few employees sign up for wellness programs.
• A mere 4% of smokers took part in employer-sponsored smoking-cessation programs.
• Only 5% of overweight employees signed up for weight-reduction programs.
• Just 10% of employees with chronic ailments such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease took part in programs that address these problems.
There are many theories for why more people don’t sign up for wellness programs and experts have made many recommendations for pumping up that number.
But in my opinion these theories have very little to do the average person facing the very hard challenge of quitting cigarettes, losing weight or dealing with a chronic disease.
The simple truth is that if you’re not ready for a wellness program, it’s not going to work for you. Deciding to enroll in a wellness program is like anything else that represents a major life change. It’s tough to do. It’s tough to change your daily patterns, tough to get into a new routine, tough even to get yourself up for every session of the class.
So how do you know if you’re ready or not? Here’s a simple quiz we put together that will assess your readiness for a wellness program.
1. Do you have an illness or health issue for which you want to seek treatment or help?
Knowing you have an illness or health issue and resolving to do something about it is the first step in preparing for a wellness program.
2. Have you completed a health assessment?
Many companies and health plans that have wellness programs offer health assessments that typically can be done online or over the phone. The health assessment identifies any health issues that may require medical attention or a change in lifestyle. According to National Compensation Survey data, 55 percent of employees who take health assessments end up enrolling in wellness programs.
3. Have you tried to address your health issue by yourself and failed?
Many people who successfully lose weight, quit smoking or get their diabetes under control first had to endure a series of failed efforts on their own before considering getting help to tackle their health issue.
4. Is your health issue having a negative impact on your life?
It’s hard to change habits such as poor nutrition or smoking. But people often find the motivation to change when it’s taking a toll on their health and preventing them from doing the things they love to do.
5. Does your employer give you incentives for completing the program?
Positive feedback in the form of cash and other incentives can be a great motivator. For example, UnitedHealthcare offers employers a program called “Simply Engaged” that gives employees $75 for completing a health assessment, $25 for completing an online coaching program, and an additional $75 for completing a telephonic coaching program.
6. Does your company offer the program you need?
Don’t be surprised if they do. The programs that are most popular reflect the most pressing health challenges we face as a nation such as obesity, nutrition, smoking, diabetes, heart disease, and women’s health issues. A quick check with your human resources department or your company’s health benefits online tools can help you find the program that’s best for you.
Now you’ve taken the quiz and it’s time to score it. The more “yes” answers you gave, the more ready you are. If you answered “yes” to four or more questions, sign up right now!