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Insight For Workplace Wellness Managers: What Motivates Employees to Change Lifestyle Behavior

While nearly half (44 percent) of all employees considered themselves in above average health, a surprising few (one in five employees) actually adhere to the minimum standards of healthy eating, including consuming one serving of whole grain and fruit each day, found a recent national survey. And, only one in two employees undertake minimal physical activity such as walking or gardening for ten minutes at least four days a week.

Many employees report themselves to be in "very good" or "excellent" health, despite failing to reach even the minimum levels of physical activity and nutritional recommendations, according to the Employee Engagement Poll released by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).

Similarly, while many consumers understand basic health and wellness messages that good diet and exercise are important, a vast majority cannot answer specific questions about how such variables as body weight, cholesterol or blood pressure may impact quality of life.

"This poll highlights an opportunity for health and wellness programs offered by employers around the country to more closely align consumer perceptions of good health with greater engagement in activities that potentially have a positive impact on quality of life and medical costs," said Scott P. Serota, BCBSA president and CEO.

BCBSA's poll also found that two-thirds (67 percent) of employees who do not have health and wellness programs at work would like their employers to offer them. Among all employees, meanwhile, the majority (54 percent) would appreciate more health and wellness assistance from their employer.

For companies that invest in these initiatives, employees report healthier behavior, including being more active, following a healthier diet and getting recommended health screenings. In addition, they say that they are more productive. Finally, these workers are also much more likely, on average (64 percent), to believe that their employer cares about their health. The poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks, surveyed 3,063 working men and women ages, 18 to 60.

In connection with the release of the survey results, BCBSA also said six national employers in the program have partnered with their local Blue companies for a program called Engaging Consumers@Work.

The pilot program has been introduced to nearly 15,000 employees at AutoZone, CVS, Lozier, Staples, Vetter Health Services and Visant Corporation in collaboration with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies in their respective states. The Harvard Medical School Department of Health Care Policy is conducting a rigorous evaluation of the program to determine the most effective ways to communicate and execute workplace health engagement programs. The findings will be reported by Harvard later this year.

"Engaging our employees in workplace health programs helps reduce their health risks, improve productivity and increase employee satisfaction," said Bill Rhodes, president and CEO of AutoZone. "This study will help us determine how we can better inform our employees and motivate them to make better life healthcare choices."

Serota added: "Because most adults spend half or more of their waking hours at work, employers have a real opportunity to positively impact the health of their employees. However, as the poll shows, we have much to learn about employee health perceptions and behaviors. We believe that the data derived from the Engaging Consumers@Work pilot will help to improve the effectiveness of health and wellness programs by ensuring that more education results in not just greater awareness but also healthier behavior."

The Engaging Consumers@Work pilot initiative has three components: education, activation and research. It offers workplace materials that encourage employees to increase physical activity, make better nutrition choices and reduce healthcare expenses by choosing generic drugs, when possible. Engaging Consumers@Work also offers a walking program that tracks progress through the use of a pedometer, weekly e-mail reminders about the benefits of walking, arranged walking competitions and a nutrition guide.

"Helping employees live healthier is of growing interest and importance to employers. Business decision-makers are constantly looking for solutions to the health cost crisis and they want to know what works," said Helen Darling, president, National Business Group on Health. "This program offers opportunities to improve how we communicate with consumers and how they process healthcare messaging, which could help employers and employees lower healthcare costs and improve their health."

For more information on BlueWorks and the national Employer Engagement Poll, visit the employer section on

© 2007 Health Resources Publishing