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Wellness programs have their pros and their cons

Posted Oct 23 2008 3:23pm

I’ve been hearing about organizational wellness programs for several years now. What could be bad?

According to an article in The Wall Street Journal’s, MarketWatch(Even During Financial Crisis, Investing in Wellness is Good Business)

  • Chronic illness accounts for 2/3 of a company’s health care expense.
  • 80% of all chronic disease is the result of 3 preventable health behaviors: physical inactivity, poor nutrition and smoking.

Corporate Wellness programs typically include smoking cessation, weight loss and exercise programs with ‘health coaches’.

But that 80% is the low hanging fruit. What about the 20% who live with chronic disease that isn’t “preventable”? They desperately need to work for organizations with flexible schedules, supportive supervisors who adjust work loads and good benefits so they can get the medical treatment.

Now that would be an investment in human capital! But much harder to do than hiring an outside firm to deliver health coaching.

I also worry about this: Describing chronic illness as preventable could lead an employer or a colleague of someone with a chronic illness (such as rheumatoid arthritis, mitochondrial disease or sarcoidosis ) to assume that all chronic illnesses are preventable? Or that a relatively straightforward life style change would eradicate the disease?

Could wellness programs further marginalize those who don’t get “well”? Folks with chronic illness who have little control over their health could be seen as difficult in this environment.

Excuse me for being paranoid. Tell me, have you seen or experienced what I describe? Or am I letting my imagination run away with itself?

Rosalind aka cicoach.com


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