Corporate Health and Wellness Programs and Travel Incentives in the News

by: Nichole Gunn October 19, 2011

Employers are benefited from healthy employees, but unfortunately, the healthcare system thrives on sick people. Due to this fact, over 95 percent of U.S. health related costs go toward the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses. Making matters worse, over 70 percent of those related expenses go toward preventable illnesses.

Based on these statistics, it’s easy to understand why so many health and wellness initiatives are cropping up throughout the small and large private business sector. Employee incentive programs are proven to improve employee health and wellness. This in turn enhances workplace morale and employee productivity, thereby decreasing healthcare expenses.

Taking note of the benefits of corporate health and wellness programs, employers in the public sector are jumping on the bandwagon.

One municipality striving to curtail its healthcare costs, according to the News and Sentinel, is West Virginia’s Wood County. It recently held a meeting with its employees and representatives from an insurance company to collaborate on available and effective employee health and wellness options.

The paper reported that a number of corporate health and wellness features have already been put in motion in Wood County. The new initiatives include: healthy lunch choices, flu shots, healthy screenings, and an exercise program.

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield representative Amanda Johnson told the new source, “The first model is health awareness, which we have done, then you moved into health promotions offering programs, but we’d like to progress now into risk reduction, which is where you will see a savings and hopefully prevention of chronic disease.”

Johnson went on to tell the paper that employee incentives are a necessary strategy to motivate county worker program participation and worker compliance with recommended health screenings. She noted that Wood County’s employee non-participation rate is at 10.6 percent, making these workers possible “ticking time bombs.”

To improve the non-participation rate, Wood County implemented the Lifestyle Program. Johnson explained that this initiative provides workers with “awareness of their current health status, moving the program to the next level."

Seeking to further motivate employees and boost workplace morale, business owners are looking for additional strategies, including travel incentives. Working toward this end, Incentive Travel Council (ITC) and the Site International Foundation united to commission Monmouth University’s Dr. Scott Jeffries to conduct a travel incentive study. When completed, the results will hopefully “provide insights on how businesses can benefit from implementing travel-based incentives to its employees.”

Former ITC president Jim Ruszala noted that businesses and municipalities are facing challenges everyday, some new and some unique. “To overcome these challenges and help achieve business performance objectives, we need to approach incentive travel design differently with an added attention towards how we can better engage and improve participant experiences.”