Health Wellness

What Is a Wellness Program

Published at 02/16/2012 05:26:39


A wellness program is a program that encourages healthy behavior among a group of people or individuals. The term "wellness program" is frequently associated with large employers who implement various health programs and incentives to decrease health care costs. A wellness program does not have to be associated with a large employer, however. Wellness programs can be implemented in faith-based organizations, after school programs, community centers, neighborhoods, and even individual households.


A corporate wellness program is an employer-based program that encourages healthy behavior among employees. While we may think that only a large employer that can afford to hire wellness coordinators and health educators have would have a wellness program, the benefits of encouraging healthy habits among employees have made even small employers implement wellness programs.

While a wellness program may have many different aspects and targeted behaviors, the two most important and beneficial parts of a wellness program are those that increase physical activity and smoking cessation. Heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and even cancer are linked to lack of physical activity and obesity. Since approximately two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, a wellness program that emphasizes healthy eating and increasing physical activity can have a great impact on health care and insurance costs. Smoking is also linked to heart disease, stroke, and various forms of cancer, so a wellness program that offers smoking cessation classes can significantly reduce health care costs incurred from smoking-related diseases.


Hospitals, nursing homes, and other employers that are part of the health care industry usually have qualified health educators on staff who can easily transition into coordinating a wellness program. Employers that are not in the health care sector sometimes create a Wellness Coordinator or Wellness Director position and hire a physician, registered nurse, nurse practitioner, or other health care professional to start a wellness program. Typically, that person will offer various health education classes on nutrition, proper eating, disease prevention, tobacco cessation, and other topics. Although it is not required to start a wellness program, larger employers will often have an outside firm do a health risk appraisal (HRA) to assess what the most important health issues are among employees. If an employer or any other group does perform an HRA, it is important that the assessment be conducted in compliance with the confidentiality requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). A large employer may add or upgrade an onsite gym and add increase healthy menu items in the company cafeteria ways to encourage participation in a wellness program.


Small employers, faith-base organizations, afterschool programs, and community groups may not have the money to implement an expensive wellness program, but with a little creativity, they can do many things to encourage health behaviors among program participants and employees. Some inexpensive ways to implement a wellness program are:

  • Serve fruit, vegetables, whole grains, bottled water and other healthy items at meetings instead of doughnuts, pastries, chips, and soda.
  • Obtain inexpensive pedometers and start a step-counting program.
  • Some health organizations such as large hospital systems may provide free pedometers to community groups and employers as part of their community health programs.
  • Replace vending machine junk food and soft drinks with healthier choices such as nuts, fruit, and bottled water.
  • Offer a variety of fun activities that people will want to participate in for the long haul such as zumba dancing, jumping rope, or walking around the neighborhood or in a nearby park.Bring in outside speakers from your local hospital, colleges, universities, extension offices, and disease awareness organizations such as the American Heart Association or American Cancer Society.

Health experts from such places will usually offer their services for no charge and may even be able to assist you with starting a wellness program. Whether you have a large organization or a small one, implementing a wellness program does not have to cost a lot of money. With a little creativity and resolve, almost any organization can implement an effective wellness program.


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