Senior Management Support Boosts Wellness Program Participation

March 9, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - An analysis of data from nearly 450 employers that completed the HERO Employee Health Management Best Practice Scorecard documents a clear correlation between senior management support and higher levels of employee participation in health and wellness programs.

Mercer and the nonprofit Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) collaborated on the study and the ongoing Best Practice Scorecard survey and found that among the organizations that scored highest in the area of leadership and cultural support, average employee participation rates are significantly higher. Their employees are more likely to complete a health risk assessment (59% of employees, on average) than employees in organizations reporting little or no leadership and cultural support (41%), and are also more likely to take advantage of biometric screenings offered through the program (53% versus 38%).   

According to a Mercer news release, strong leadership and cultural support was also associated with a positive impact on health risks and health care spending. About two-thirds (66%) of organizations with strong leadership and cultural support reported improvements in health risks, compared to only 26% of those with little or no support. Organizations with strong leadership and cultural support were ten times as likely as those with little or no support to report a that the employee health management (EHM) program has had substantial positive impact on their medical plan cost trend – in other words, that as employee health has improved, the company has saved more in medical claims than it spends on the EHM program.  

Mercer said, to examine the relationship between the use of best practices (as indicated by the respondents’ scores) and program outcomes, the study authors compared reported outcomes for respondents with low, average and high best practice scores. Employers in the high-scoring group reported higher employee participation rates in all programs, from health risk assessments to lifestyle management programs. They were also more likely to report seeing a “significant improvement” in employee health risk (25% reported a significant improvement, compared with just 11% of respondents in the average-scoring group) and “substantial positive impact on medical plan cost trend, greater than the cost of the EHM program” (30%, compared to 11% of the average-scorers and just 2% of the low scorers).   

The HERO Scorecard is available to organizations on a complimentary basis and may be accessed through the-hero.org, mercer.com or a Partner organization.

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