New Study Demonstrates Benefits of Worksite Health Promotion Programs – Small Business Trends

Minneapolis and Nashville, Tennessee (PRESS RELEASE – April 10, 2011) – A new study published recently supports the premise that high-quality employee wellness programs in small businesses improve employee health and well-being, which drives improvements in organizational outcomes such as absenteeism, healthcare costs and disability claims. Featured in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, it is among the first peer-reviewed research evaluating the effectiveness of worksite health and wellness programs offered by a small employer.

The study marks an important step toward broadening the workplace well-being impact beyond just large businesses. Small businesses, which stand to benefit from financial incentives provided by health care reform legislation, are in need of guidance regarding their investment in programs that deliver results.

“These findings clearly indicate the dramatic consequences that small employer wellness programs can have on multiple domains of well-being, such as physical health, emotional health and healthy behaviors of employees,” said James E. Pope M.D., coauthor of the article and Chief Science Officer at Healthways. “These comprehensive findings offer a broad understanding of the areas that can adversely impact the productivity and health of a workforce.”

The study, facilitated by Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), known for its landmark research on modifiable health risks and employee health care costs, evaluated the impact of Nebraska-based Lincoln Industries best practices program using the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (WBI).

The WBI is a comprehensive survey of a population’s well-being based on a set of indices that assess physical health, emotional health, healthy behavior, and basic access to health-related conditions and services. The WBI achieved an 87 percent response rate among Lincoln’s employees and individual values were assigned and aggregated to produce a set of domain scores for the entire population. Underscoring the strong health and wellness culture at Lincoln, this participation rate was achieved without incentives.

Hank Orme, President of Lincoln Industries, discussed the importance of wellness programs on a business’s bottom line. “In today’s competitive business world we are looking for every edge to improve performance, and we have found that investing in our culture of healthy lifestyles has created a workplace that yields high returns in all metrics including operating profit, customer satisfaction, supplier satisfaction, individual opinion surveys, trust surveys and overall a spirited group of people. I am confident that this can be achieved by both small and large companies with dedicated leadership.”

Lincoln Industries was identified in the study as a best practice program, consisting of initiatives focused on:

• Increasing employee awareness of their health status

• Fostering personal accountability

• Promoting physical activity

• Healthy diet

• Community involvement

• High levels of job satisfaction

Approximately 99 percent of employees complete regular health screenings, with a majority of the workforce participating in wellness activities throughout the year. Previous analyses of Lincoln’s program have documented the company’s success in reducing tobacco use and workers compensation costs, and the company’s resulting health care costs trend significantly lower than health care spending nationwide.

“This study marks a critical first step in wellness research specifically designed to inform the practices of small businesses,” said David Anderson, PhD, coauthor and chair of the research committee for the Health Enhancement Research Organization. “By promoting high-quality research in a small-business setting, HERO is helping to put evidence-based wellness practices within reach of all employers.”

Article: “Evaluation of a Best-Practice Worksite Wellness Program in a Small-Employer Setting Using Selected Well-being Indices.” Ray M. Merrill, PhD, MPH, Steven G. Aldana, PhD, James E. Pope, MD, David R. Anderson, PhD, LP, Carter R. Coberley, PhD, Tonya P. Vyhlidal, MEd, Greg Howe, MS, and R. William Whitmer, MBA; Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Published Ahead-of-Print, March 14, 2011.

About the Health Enhancement Research Organization

The Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) is a member-driven coalition of employers, providers, consultants, academic institutions and associations who share a belief that Employee Health Management (EHM) is a scientifically sound, evidence-based approach to achieving health improvements for their workforces. Further, through the creation and dissemination of evidence-based EHM research, education and best practices, HERO actively and continually provides leadership critical to advancing the well-being and performance of the nation’s workforce.

About Healthways

Healthways (NASDAQ: HWAY) is the leading provider of specialized, comprehensive solutions to help millions of people maintain or improve their health and well-being and, as a result, reduce overall costs. Healthways’ Well-Being Improvement Solution is designed to keep healthy people healthy, reduce health-related risks and optimize care for those with chronic illness. Our proven, evidence-based approach provides highly specific and personalized interventions for each individual in a population, irrespective of age or health status, and is delivered to consumers by phone, mail, internet and face-to-face interactions, both domestically and internationally. Healthways also provides a national, fully accredited complementary and alternative Health Provider Network and a national Fitness Center Network, offering convenient access to individuals who seek health services outside of, and in conjunction with, the traditional healthcare system.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

In January 2008, Gallup and Healthways launched an unprecedented, 25 year agreement to create the “official statistics” for measuring America’s state of well-being. To address this challenging goal, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (WBI) was created. The intent of the WBI is to collect meaningful and useful health and well-being information and data from individuals across the United States. Work on this project began in early January 2008. Since then, every day, seven days a week (excluding major holidays), 1,000 person to person telephone interviews are completed. Currently, more than 1,000,000 individuals have participated in the WBI survey. Gallup is the administrator for this effort. The WBI contains six evaluation domains: Life Evaluation; Emotional Health; Physical Health; Healthy Behavior; Work Environment; and Basic Access.

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