Getting Employees Active in Health Matters Requires Support

May 6, 2010 ( – Getting workers to become active health care consumers may require a spectrum of support including the physician as the foundation, family, employer, and health plan and health coach.

That was the result of a new survey by the Midwest Business Group on Health (MBGH) sponsored by drugmakers Merck and Novartis.

A news release said employees believe the most credible source for health information is their doctor, while those with chronic conditions will often have the most involvement with a health coach, who is viewed as an extension of the employer, rather than their doctor. 

Co-workers are a major influence for employees to become involved in worksite programs, but senior management can also be a strong influencer if company morale is high, MGBH said.

“By better understanding the employees’ perspectives on health care and health benefits, employers can restructure the design, communication and delivery of benefits, wellness incentives and health management activities,” said Larry Boress, president and CEO, MBGH, in the news release. 

Other survey findings included:

  • Employees have an emotional attachment to their health – family and loved ones are strong triggers for healthy change, and could be also be barriers due to their strong influence on the employee’s behavior and choices.
  • Employees need the confidence to take action and the conviction along with the tools, resources and support to get started.
  • Employers need to focus on gaining employee trust which leads the list as a top barrier to participation in worksite health programs.
  • Employees want clear and concise communications on coverage, cost, choice and benefit changes.
  • Overall, employees are open to the use of incentives and disincentives, but perceive incentives as more powerful than disincentives in changing behavior.

More than 170 participants from MBGH member employers, spouses, health coaches and physicians participated in focus groups and surveys.