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More employers offering wellness initiatives: Study

More employers offering wellness initiatives: Study

While more companies are turning to wellness programs to curb employee medical costs and improve their workers' general health, relatively few are measuring the actual return on investment those programs generate, according to a study by the Brookfield, Wis.-based International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

More than 70% of the 583 U.S.-based IFEBP-member firms that participated in the foundation's “Wellness Programs and Value-Based Health Care” study, released Wednesday, indicated that they offer some form of wellness program to their workers including flu shots, health screenings and weight management programs. Another 12.8% indicated that they planned to implement a wellness program within the next 12 months.

More than half of the companies providing wellness resources to their employees said they implemented the programs primarily to control health care costs, while 31.9% said improving their workers' overall physical health was their central goal.

The survey also indicated that financial investment in wellness has grown substantially in the past five years. Among the companies offering wellness programs, 63.1% said they have somewhat or significantly increased their wellness budgets since 2007.


“Without question, employers are beginning to understand the direct connection that wellness initiatives can have on both employees' health and health care plan cost savings,” IFEBP CEO Michael Wilson said in a statement accompanying the study.

Though wellness programs appear to be rising in popularity among U.S. employers, the study indicated that more than 60% of companies offering the programs to their employees are not calculating the total financial return on their investment, and another 17.4% aren't sure if they are.

Of the 21.6% of companies that are measuring their wellness ROI, more than one-third said they have not been able to produce a definitive calculation.

Companies that have produced an ROI estimate for their wellness programs indicated that the results have been mostly positive. Fifty-four percent of companies measuring ROI said their returns have been between $1.01 and $6 for every dollar spent.

“Determining ROI can be of great benefit for employers, leading to increased buy-in from organization leaders and workers,” IFEBP senior information and research specialist Julie Stich said in the foundation's statement. “However, it's not an easy process. ROI can be difficult to measure since health improvement may be influenced by a combination of factors and because it takes an average of three years to see cost-saving results.”

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