The Truth About Wellness

Posting a summary of the remarks offered by one of its recent featured speakers, the secretary-treasurer of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, the National Press Club headlined its synopsis with “Union Official Debunks Workplace Wellness Programs.”

The problem with that headline is simply, well, he really didn’t.

John Borsos’s Press Club remarks could be boiled down to these points:

•    There is no evidence workplace wellness programs improve health or save money.
•    Wellness incentives are unfair to those who don’t choose to try to achieve them.
•    Wellness programs are an invasion of personal privacy.
•    What America really needs is a single-payer healthcare system.

What America actually needs is a discussion about wellness and disease prevention that relies more on facts than hyperbole.  Employers throughout the country have, in fact, developed firm evidence that wellness initiatives are bringing greater health to employees and reducing healthcare costs.  You can find specific metrics on many of these successes in a compendium we have published, The Future Is Here.

On the topic of how to make wellness programs work in the workplace setting, I urge you to read the post by Colin Watts of Weight Watchers below.  He offers an insightful discussion on the relative efficacy of carrots versus sticks in these programs.

And, as to privacy, as Kaiser Permanente, CVS Caremark and others have pointed out ad nauseum, wellness profiles of employees are collected and viewed in the aggregate.  Individual privacy is constantly respected and protected.

The fact is, we are facing a significant, disturbing escalation in chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and pulmonary illness that will affect both the health and finances of the U.S. population, not to mention the sustainability of our healthcare system.  We need bold action to address this growing problem, and that action cannot exclude the eight or more hours each day that millions of Americans spend at their workplace.