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The Value of Corporate Wellness

Corporate and worksite wellness programs can be defined as employer-sponsored services designed to promote or maintain the health and well-being of employees.  In the past, the idea of corporate wellness used to mean a poster on the wall encouraging people to take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Now, these programs can include a wide scope of health promoting activities such as nutrition counseling, group exercise instruction, and one-on-one health coaching.  Corporate wellness was once viewed as a nice “perk” and not a strategic or economic investment– however, the data tells a different story. Currently, 90% of workplaces offer at least one type of health promotion activity to workers, and the return on investment can be as high as 6 to 1 [1].

Photo courtesy of American Medical Association

Photo courtesy of American Medical Association

According to recent research, almost 25% of the increase in health care spending in the United States can be explained by lifestyle-related health conditions, especially in the case of rising overweight and obesity rates [2].  Reducing health problems associated with behavioral and biometric risk factors should be a priority for employers, especially when more than 60% of Americans get their health insurance coverage through an employment-based plan [3].  Additionally, employees spend more of their waking hours in the workplace than anywhere else, making it a prime venue for investments in health.

What are some of the roles and benefits of a comprehensive corporate wellness program? First, a well-run program will use tools such prevention, education, and personal responsibility to address underlying health issues and increase knowledge.  A number of positive returns on this type of program have been identified; including decreased health care costs, reduced absenteeism, greater productivity, and higher morale [1].  What’s more, corporate wellness programs can be an attractive incentive for recruiting new employees and for retaining current employees.

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One of the most well-researched corporate wellness initiatives is the Johnson & Johnson Corporation Health and Wellness Program.  A study on the long-term impact of the program indicated a substantial reduction in medical care expenditures over a 4-year period including fewer outpatient, inpatient, and mental health clinic visits compared to baseline [4].  The company estimates that wellness programs have cumulatively saved the company $250 million on healthcare costs over the past decade [1].

Now is the time to encourage your employees to take a proactive stance in lowering their health risks.  Creating a culture of health will foster healthy lifestyles, improved decision-making, and an improved bottom line for employers.  Successful organizations in the coming years will embrace the idea of well-being and improved health for employees.


  1. Berry, L.L., A.M. Mirabito, and W.B. Baun, What’s the hard return on employee wellness programs? Harv Bus Rev, 2011. 89(3): p. 20-1.
  2. Naydeck, B.L., et al., The impact of the highmark employee wellness programs on 4-year healthcare costs. J Occup Environ Med, 2008. 50(2): p. 146-56.
  3. Blumenthal, D., Employer-sponsored health insurance in the United States–origins and implications. N Engl J Med, 2006. 355(1): p. 82-8.
  4. Goetzel, R.Z., et al., The long-term impact of Johnson & Johnson’s Health & Wellness Program on employee health risks. J Occup Environ Med, 2002. 44(5): p. 417-24.