AON Survey Shows Wellness Programs Gaining Favor

June 23, 2005 ( - A recent survey of HR executives conducted by AON Consulting showed that 43% of those surveyed have adopted a formalized disease management or health and wellness strategy for their workforce.

Nineteen percent have been asked to explore opportunities for these programs, according to an Aon announcement.

These programs are intended to help manage high health care costs, but as Michele Becker, a vice president with Aon Consulting stated, “The challenge employers face is the need to balance short-term administrative costs with a desire to impact longer-term health care costs, reduce absence and improve productivity.”

The survey showed that the majority (72%) of the companies that have formal strategies host onsite health screenings for employees. Becker warns that, though the screenings can be used by employers to determine the most appropriate programs for their workforce, they can be expensive so, “…employers should research market alternatives carefully to find high quality, cost-effective service providers so as not to erode potential return on investment.”

Only 16% of managers surveyed said they expect to receive a positive return on investment in the first year of the program, though 52% said they expect a positive return from the programs overall, showing a realistic view of management, according to the survey.

A key measure of a program’s success is employee participation. Concerning the lack of employee participation in health management programs, respondents cited a lack of motivation as the primary reason (41%), Aon said. In response to this, Becker instructed, “Incentives increase participation, and high participation yields results. To realize ROI, companies must incorporate incentives appropriate for their workforce such as reduced contributions, wellness credits, and deposits to flexible spending accounts.”

In addition, the survey showed that the bulk of respondents (62%) ranked obesity and physical activity as their biggest concern as a lifestyle risk for employees, with 15% ranking stress as the highest concern, and only 3% choosing smoking. Regarding chronic illness, heart disease was chosen by 53% of respondents as their most significant concern, with diabetes chosen by 11%.

-Rebecca Moore