Wellness Plans : Developing a Health Promotion Program.

As organizations today continue to compete in the global economy, cost containment strategies are going to be increasingly important. Controlling the rising cost of worker ill health is becoming a priority for corporate leaders.

The emerging corporate culture in the USA  is one which has an employee population centered in health, safety and wellness.

Creating a corporate strategy for wellness and disability management makes good company sense.  The following eight-step process ensures a strategic, integrated, needs-driven and results-oriented approach.

The following process works best in organizations with strong leadership and a long-term commitment to staff member health.

1. Identify Your Health Promotion Program Champion

This person ought to be a leader in your corporation and a strong advocate of health. Generally this is a personal who actively pursues his or her own personal quest for optimal health.

The health promotion program champion must have the resources and authority to drive the program forward.  The program champion’s key role is to ensure the strategic plan for health is aligned with the corporation’s company objectives, strategic focus and organizational values.

For  instance when the corporation promotes that “our strength is our people ” the wellness program must demonstrate how programs will nurture and protect that valuable resource.

2. Form Your Wellness Strategy Team

The Wellness Strategy Team should include decision makers and stakeholders from areas of the business that can influence health and the corporation’s bottom line.

These areas could include; finance, human resources (HR), training and development, health services, compensation and benefits, staff member assistance services (EAP), marketing, facilities, safety and health, rehabilitation, cafeteria or food services and the union. A team of six to eight representatives is recommended.

The role of the Strategy Team is to create and implement the strategic plan, look for opportunities to promote health, ensure the wellness program is integrated into key areas of the organization, streamline efforts, maximize organization resources and wellness program examination.

3. Complete an Organizational Health Audit

The purpose of an Organizational Health Audit is to evaluate your existing wellness programs and services, physical environment and policies and procedures that support health.

It’s also crucial that you look at your organizational culture or “how things are done” around the company.

Members of the Strategy Team complete the Audit independently and then meet to discuss their analysis. During the analysis process, health issues and opportunities are discussed in preparation for the development of the strategic plan.

4. Analyze Your Corporation’s Cost Pressures

Cost pressures are identified by evaluating  a number of areas including; benefit costs, Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) claims, drug usage, kind of paramedic claims, absenteeism data and employee assistance program (EAP) utilization.

This process assists to target areas that may be positively impacted by a wellness program and to provide a baseline for investigating  change.

5. Conduct a HRA or Staff Member Needs and Interest Survey

The next step is to determine your staff member’s health risks, interests and readiness to change. A confidential health risk assessment can accomplish many objectives.

It provides a baseline from which to measure personal lifestyle changes, provides staff members with relevant health information, excites staff members to take charge of their health and assists in health promotion program planning.

Most health risk appraisals provide individual reports and a corporate report identifying high-risk areas in the organization.

A lot of companies prefer to administer personalized needs and interest survey to evaluate employee needs.  The advantage of this approach is that the business can gather information on the employees’ perceived wellness program needs and interests.

This information may be incorporated into the strategic plan. Administering a recent survey also has the added advantage of fostering a sense of employee ownership to the wellness program.

6. Create Your Strategic Plan for Wellness

The strategic plan should incorporate information accumulated from the Organizational Health Audit, your company’s cost pressures, and health risk assessment data or worker survey results.

The strategic plan ought to include your wellness program mission, three or four goals and a few wellness programs under each objective.  The strategic plan provides a framework to encourage, support and evaluate “best health practices.”

It’s also important that the plan align itself with the vision, goals and goals of the business.

The sample strategic plan that follows was created for blue jeans maker Levi Strauss and Co. (Canada) Inc. Levi Strauss and Co.’s mission statement and aspirations (how workforce interact with each other in a corporation environment) guided the development of the plan.

Levi Strauss and Co.’s aspirations include the following statement –  Above all, we want satisfaction from accomplishments and friendships, balanced personal and expert lives, and to have fun in our endeavors.

The wellness program plan included a number of components to ensure that it embraced this statement including the following –

1. A vision statement, which tied in with the organization’s aspirations.

2.  An incentive system to encourage and reward the accomplishment of healthful milestones.

3. A recognition system to applaud success.

4. Friendly competitions between Levi Strauss and Co. locations to ensure a fun environment.

5. Opportunities to take part in small group educational health promotion programs to foster team support.

6. Initiation of support groups for staff members completing health promotion programs (i.e. use of tobacco control support group).

7. Programs dealing with work and family balance.

Other information that was investigated and used to create the plan included –

1. Business demographics

2. Focus groups

3. Cultural audit

4. Top drug report

5. employee assistance program (EAP) utilization

6. Worker benefit services report

7. Health and dental claims

8. Operational performance summaries

9. Health risk appraisals

7. Pull together a Company Case to Support Your Plan

Your corporation case for wellness provides the necessary details for approval at the senior management level.  The corporation case includes –

1.  The Strategic Plan for Health

2. A proposed health promotion program budget

3. Marketing strategies

4. Program leadership options

5.  An implementation plan

6. Analysis methodology.

In presenting the strategic plan it’s vital that you highlight how the plan aligns itself with the strategic direction of the organization.

The wellness program budget should include educational resources, advertising and marketing costs, rewards and incentives, leadership costs and supplies.

Marketing and Advertising strategies should address how the wellness program will be promoted and rolled out to various groups within the business i.e. decentralized locations, high risk employees, older employees.

Program leadership should address how volunteers are going to be used, internal resources  and whether advisors have been proposed. All play an equally important role in the implementation of your health promotion program.

The wellness program implementation plan should incorporate the following types of programs that help develop awareness of positive health practices, assist workers in making lifestyle changes and initiatives, which support long-term change.

Awareness wellness programs create an awareness of the importance of healthy lifestyle practices and motivate workers to take the next step. Examples of awareness wellness programs include posting educational posters, newsletter articles and lunch and learn seminars.

Lifestyle change health promotion programs are more robust and longer in duration. They are designed to assist personnel in changing behavior. Examples of lifestyle change health promotion programs are nutrition education programs, stress management programs, back care courses and use of tobacco control programs.

A supportive corporate environment encompasses everything from corporate policies and procedures, the physical environment and building a corporate culture that supports good health practices. Follow-up sessions and support groups for staff members who have completed 6-10 week wellness programs also provide a supportive environment for long-term change.

Investigating the effectiveness of wellness is ongoing. A formal evaluation must be conducted annually and may include; re-administering steps three to five, health promotion program participation statistics and a year end survey to revisit “soft” issues like morale, health promotion program satisfaction and future health promotion program direction.

8. Solicit Input and Communicate Your Plan

Staff Member input is critical to the long-term success of your health promotion program.  An Staff Member Advisory Committee must be formed to roll out the plan. Another key responsibility of this team is to solicit feedback from all levels of the organization to ensure buy-in.

Front line Manager’s Information Sessions and focus groups are also important. This group needs to buy-in to the notion that they play a key role in supporting positive health practices.

Regular meetings are recommended with front line managers to receive ongoing input, address issues and orient new managers.

Conclusions

The World Health Corporation’s definition of health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellness and not merely the absence of illness and infirmity.”

In order for us to develop healthful worksites, health promotion programs must have a health promotion program champion, have staff member ownership, be upper management supported, results driven and strategically aligned with the overall corporation goals of the corporation.

Wellness program that embrace these qualities will have a positive impact on an corporation’s bottom line. Canadian research points to many case studies where onsite wellness programs have resulted in reduced absenteeism, lower claims and increased productivity.

Organizations that have embraced wellness as part of “how they do business” have one thing in common. They demonstrate a commitment to their most valuable resource – their individuals .

They understand the increased pressures associated with downsized companies, a quickly changing workplace, an aging work force and the challenge of balancing work and family obligations.  And they share a common belief that healthy staff members are happier, absent less and more productive.

References –

Design of Health Promotion Programs by Michael P. O’Donnell. 1995. Published by the American Journal of Wellness.

Pro Fit-ability by Veronica Marsden. Group Health Care Management. May 1997.

Meeting Expectations by Laura Mensch. Employee Health and Productivity. August 1999

7 Steps to Health Promotion by Daphne Woolf and Veronica Marsden. Group Health Care Management. February 1996.

Published in the Journal of Health Promotion for Northern Ireland, Issue 9, March 2000

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