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RAND Workplace Wellness Study is Supportive

Posted Jun 25 2013 12:00am
You've probably heard about the report on workplace wellness undertaken by RAND Corp. An early Reuters article -- repeated ad nauseam by other news outlets -- made it sound extremely negative, but you really should read it yourself . You'll see just how misleading these reports were.

Case in point
In an analysis of the CCA database, when comparing wellness program participants to statistically matched nonparticipants, we find statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvements in exercise frequency, smoking behavior, and weight control, but not cholesterol control. Those improvements are sustainable over an observation period of four years, and our simulation analyses point to cumulative effects with ongoing program participation. However, we caution that our analyses cannot account for unobservable differences between program participants and nonparticipants, such as differential motivation to change behavior.
The emphasis is mine, but the points bear repeating:

Over four years, the study found statically and clinically significant improvements in all areas except cholesterol.

The study did not address boosting employees' readiness to change -- something we know wellness does extremely well.

The most gratifying section of the report for me is the discussion of what makes wellness programs effective. RAND lists five points that we've been talking about (and implementing in our programs) for years
  1. Effective communication. Successful wellness programs keep employees in the loop from beginning to end.
  2. Engagement opportunities. Programming must be accessible and convenient for the entire population.
  3. Management support. Senior execs must be visibly on board.
  4. Existing resources. Whether it's through a current health plan or community resources, the best programs build on an existing infrastructure.
  5. Evaluation. Great programs solicit employees' feedback and have an attitude of improvement. They aren't afraid to make changes.
The report does mention opportunities for improvement -- particularly around participation rates -- but the news is good overall. If you hear otherwise, don't believe it. Read the report yourself!
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