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Health Education, Fitness and Nutrition Programs Part of New Wellness Program Management Projects in 2002, Survey Finds

MANASQUAN, NJ – Programs focusing on health education, general fitness and nutrition top the list of new programs implemented this year by workplace wellness program directors, according to the results of an exclusive workplace wellness management survey conducted by Wellness Program Management Advisor and Wellness Junction.

The study is part of a series of ongoing surveys conducted by the staff of the newsletter and Web site.

Thirty-three percent of the respondents said general health education programs were implemented or expanded at their workplaces this year. These health programs, many of which consisted of seminars and workshops on a variety of health and wellness topics (such as information on diabetes and cardiac health), also consisted of health assessments, disease management, health fairs and safety tips.

Twenty-two percent of the respondents said fitness and exercise programs were among the new services they incorporated this year. Other newly implemented programs included the following, according to the statistics:

  • 19 percent of the respondents - nutrition programs.
  • 14 percent - weight control/weight management programs.
  • 14 percent - stress management.
  • 12 percent - relaxation techniques, such as massage therapy, yoga, meditation and Tai Chi classes.
  • 11 percent - smoking cessation programs.
  • 11 percent - health screenings.

Approximately 15 percent of the respondents said they implemented other types of new programs this year, such as a financial counseling service, a monthly health/wellness tip sheet that is available online and in published form, lifestyle management sessions, holistic approaches and a program to improve lighting at employee workstations. The latter program proved to be an “extreme” success, some respondents noted.

“The response and benefits to the improved lighting at employee desks and workstations has been overwhelming,” said a program director at a corporate facility. “There have been fewer complaints about eyestrain and headaches. Productivity has increased and there is a better all-around attitude among employees.”

The fitness and exercise initiatives cited by 22 percent of the respondents included walking programs, personalized fitness programs based on specific employee health concerns, strength and flexibility training and heavy/light weight training, the survey reported.

Approximately 75 percent of the respondents said the new programs have been successful in terms of employee participation and interest, while almost 20 percent said the success rate could not be measured yet because their programs were still in the early stages, according to the survey results.

Fitness programs, in particular, had a noticeable success rate, the survey determined.

“Participation increased dramatically,” said one health educator. “Approximately 200 employees joined the expanded fitness program, but many of them, as well as other employees who didn’t join, told us they wished their children and spouses could use the facilities. They said they would be able to enroll or make better use of the fitness program if we opened it up. So we created a family membership plan and immediately saw an increase in family participation.”

Approximately 5 percent of the respondents said although they did not regard the new program efforts as total failures, the level of success and employee participation was less than expected, the survey noted.

Management support and worksite location also played a role in determining program success, according to some respondents.

“In some locations, our new weight control program has been very successful, while at other [locations] it hasn’t been successful at all,” said the health coordinator of a corporate organization with multiple offices. “It varies, based on local management support and how well employee involvement efforts are coordinated.”

However, another respondent said extra sessions had to be added to accommodate the numbers of employees who enrolled in newly implemented weight management and smoking cessation clinics.

A respondent who coordinates employee wellness for 5,000 county workers said outcomes of new health education and fitness programs instituted this year are partially dependent on managerial response.

“Once a wellness program gets CEO support, that does not guarantee it will have a positive effect on employees,” the respondent explained. “The health and well-being of any one employee, especially when it comes to morale, is directly connected to the person he or she answers to on a daily basis.”

“The supervisor often has some flexibility about approving flex-time policies and approving employee participation in wellness programs on company time,” the respondent continued. “We found that one of the greatest obstacles to employee participation in wellness programs was getting clearance from supervisors.”

But acknowledging the value of employees and supervisors can lead to positive results, the respondent added.

“We realize that managers and supervisors are a critical part of the solution and we advocate for education among them [about employee health promotion],” the respondent said. “It is our widespread belief that employees who work in a supportive environment are not only more content — they are committed to helping their employers succeed.”

Survey respondents were professionals responsible for the administration of wellness programs for major employers, corporations, hospitals, and colleges or universities. The majority of respondents, more than 40 percent, are employed by major companies.

Wellness Program Management Advisor is a monthly management newsletter for workplace wellness managers. WellnessJunction.com is a Web site serving wellness professionals.

For additional information about Wellness Program Management Advisor or WellnessJunction.com, e-mail info@wellnessjunction.com, or visit http://www.wellnessjunction.com, call toll-free 1-800-516-4343, fax toll-free 1-888-329-6242, or write to Wellness Program Management Advisor, P.O. Box 456, Allenwood, NJ 08720.


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