California Employers Turn to Wellness Programs to Combat Preventable and Chronic Illnesses

Aug 29, 2012

Half of state’s employers offer wellness programs; resources, nurse lines and health fairs among common offerings

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Aug. 29, 2012 — More than one-half of organizations in California offer wellness programs for their employees, according to research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Golden State employers join organizations across the country turning to preventive health benefits to help their employees combat preventable and chronic health conditions.

Fifty-eight percent of employers in the state report having a wellness program, the survey showed. In the United States overall, 61 percent of employers provide them.

The snapshot of workplace wellness in California comes from SHRM’s 2012 Employee Benefits Survey, which showed that the use of wellness programs is increasing in the United States. The results from California mirror what is being offered overall in the country.

Wellness programs are more likely to be offered by publicly owned for-profit organizations and government than privately owned for-profits and nonprofits, the survey showed. The larger the employer, the more likely it included wellness offerings among its benefits.

“Wellness programs have a proven record for reducing health care costs, which are an ever growing issue in California,” said Mark Schmit, SHRM’s vice president of research.

What do California employers provide to help their employees live healthier lives? Wellness resources and information are the most common, provided by 76 percent of employers. Publications and a 24-hour nurse line are offered by more than one-half of employers. Forty-two percent of employers host health fairs.

Specific preventive health initiatives include:

  • On-site seasonal flu vaccinations, offered by 54 percent of California organizations (61 percent nationally);
  • Health and lifestyle coaching (37 percent in California; 45 percent overall);
  • Health screening (39 percent in California; 45 percent overall);
  • Smoking cessation programs (34 percent in California; 39 percent overall).

The survey polled randomly selected HR professionals from SHRM’s membership in California. It has a margin of error of 4 percent.

Obesity and other chronic health issues affect the well-being of employees and can have an economic impact on businesses. In response, the percent of U.S. organizations offering discounts on health care premiums for getting an annual health risk assessment and not using tobacco has increased.

But in California, the percentage of employers offering these discounts is well below the national average. Just 8 percent of employers in the state offer a discount for not using tobacco, compared to 20 percent nationally. A discount for getting an annual health assessment is offered by 12 percent in California, 9 percentage points lower than the national average.

The survey results are featured in a SHRM Research Spotlight.

Media: For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Kate Kennedy of SHRM Media Relations at 703-535-6260 and or Jennifer Hughes at and 703-535-6072.

For more information about poll findings, visit Follow SHRM’s Research Department on Twitter @SHRM_Research.

About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing about 260,000 members in more than 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at and follow us on Twitter @SHRMPress.


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