Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Resolution: Have a Wellness Culture

Many of the wellness experts, like Dee Edington and Judd Allen, now realize that it's not incentives nor knowledge that get people to stay with healthy behaviors. Wellness has to be part of the corporate culture, and leaders can be a key part of setting the tone. Wellness leaders aren't necessarily those at the top, however.

Judd Allen's book, Wellness Leadership describes five options for companies who want to change the trend in health care costs. The rates of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions that lead to long-term health costs, like presecriptions and more intense care, are increasing. Obesity has been on the rise and our demographics are tilting towards the more mature...especially as the Baby Boomers near retirement age. Allen dismisses five corporate responses:
  • Only hire those with low or no health risk factors, like smoking, obesity, high cholesterol, etc.
  • Fire those with high number of risk factors
  • Improve the quality and frequency of access to health information, like newsletters and coaches
  • Pay employees to adopt healthy behaviors, like visiting the dentist, eating vegetables, exercising
  • Consider rewarding people for program participation, not for improving their health results
The problem is not a lack of information, nor of motivation. You could have tested this at last night's New Year's Eve party, or you can test it at the first day of work. Take an informal survey. Ask people if they've tried to change exercise habits, lose weight, stop smoking, reduce stressful factors, improve relationships with family or friends, or improve any other healthy behaviors this past year. You'll find that most if not all people are wanting to improve. They just can't stick with it. They don't need incentives or programs. They need support.

Support comes from a culture or new community norms. Look at smoking. If you're not old enough to remember, watch the TV show "Mad Men" to see how acceptable smoking was. You were weird if you didn't smoke. Nowadays, you're weird if you do. The community norms have changed. Acceptable behavioral standards are different.

Another aspect of support is to hold each other accountable. I play tennis frequently. With the group of people that I play, if you miss a day, they ask you about it the next time. "Where were you?" I've heard others talk about that with their walking or running groups.

The key to reducing corporate health care costs is to initiate changes in the culture that make it weird if you're not exercising, not eating well, smoking, not maintaining a healthy weight, not getting professional care when needed, etc. Allen's book describes the steps it takes. One of the first steps is to be a role model.

So make it a New Year's Resolution: "I will be a role model for healthy living. I will encourage others to join me and we will hold each other accountable."

No comments:

Post a Comment