Wellness Programs in Brief

By Steven F. Cyboran and Sadhna Paralkar, M.D. © Sibson Consulting / The Segal Group Jul 26, 2013

Sidebar to: Wellness Program ROI Depends on Design and Implementation

Wellness Programs in Brief


To improve health in order to prevent or eliminate health risk factors and future chronic diseases.

Key Objectives

Keep healthy people healthy.

Teach unhealthy, at-risk people how to reduce or eliminate those risk factors

Common Characteristics

Establish a supportive work environment to encourage engagement.

Improve lifestyle behavior that reduces health risks: (1) ceasing tobacco use (smoking and chewing), (2) encouraging exercise/fitness, (3) improving nutrition and (4) reducing stress.

Target the most common and personally modifiable health risk conditions: (1) obesity, (2) high blood pressure, (3) high cholesterol/lipids and (4) depression/anxiety.

Encourage cancer screenings (e.g., mammogram, colonoscopy) and general preventive health (e.g., annual flu shots, routine immunizations, dental cleanings and vision exams).

Use coaching, tools and incentives* to help individuals make behavior changes that reduce their health risks and enhance their individual productivity/quality of life.

Offer voluntary participation.


Information to make people aware of health risk factors and why it's important to reduce/eliminate those risk factors.

Health-risk assessment questionnaire and biometric testing to help people identify if they have any health risk factors. Biometric testing often includes measurement of blood pressure, weight, body mass index, waist/hip ratio, glucose and cholesterol.

Educational programs (e.g., weight-loss programs, exercise programs, tobacco-cessation coaching and/or stress-management counseling) with incentives to help people stay healthy and/or begin to reduce their health risks.

Worksite/plan sponsor support to attain/maintain behavior change such as blood pressure monitors to check readings, medical plan payment for tobacco-cessation products and diet-education classes.

Tracks improvement in health risk factors over time along with other improvements (e.g., attendance/sick time, short-term disability and Family and Medical Leave Act use, productivity, impact on workers' compensation claims.

Source: Sibson Consulting.


* A long-anticipated final rule, "Incentives for Nondiscriminatory Wellness Programs in Group Health Plans," was published in the Federal Register on June 3, 2013. [See the SHRM Online article "Final Rule Provides Wellness Incentive Guidance."]

** Plan sponsors should confirm that wellness programs that use health-risk assessment questionnaires, screen and monitor health status, and/or offer incentives for participation or for reaching certain health status outcomes comply with the requirements under the Nondiscrimination and Privacy Rules of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), continuation coverage requirements, such as those under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), taxation rules and any applicable state laws. [See the SHRM Online article "Guidance Sought on Wellness Efforts and Anti-Discrimination Laws."]

This sidebar originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of Sibson Consulting's Perspectives and is reposted with permission from Sibson Consulting, a division of Segal. © 2013 by The Segal Group Inc. All rights reserved.

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