Flipping the Health & Wellness Paradigm: Focusing on Inner FITness

Gary Cassidy

Inner FITness Requires Health & Wellness Paradigm Shift | Gary Cassidy | Corporate Synergies
Inner FITness Requires Health & Wellness Paradigm Shift | Gary Cassidy | Corporate Synergies

As Seen In

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on the wellness concept, FIT: Found in Time. These articles are meant to fuel the conversation around the true goal of a corporate wellness program, which is to engage participants in activities that reveal their true state of health & wellness. See Part 1 here.

All too often employers launch a health & wellness program with little or no explanation about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. The true intent—engaging the plan participant in taking personal responsibility for health—gets lost in translation.

First impressions tend to stick. While a great way to kick off workplace wellness is through an activity challenge like the ubiquitous 10,000 steps program, it’s important that employees understand the bigger picture well before they lace up their sneakers. Wellness is an important vehicle that employers can use to drive participation in disease management activities. Employees go on to learn their true heath status via metric-bearing activities such as medical check-ups, screenings, prescription drug maintenance, etc.

Do you wonder why you don’t get greater employee participation for activity challenges, even if you offer incentives like a Fitbit raffle or gift cards? Non-participants tend to fall into three categories:

  1. Already involved in fitness programs and believe a wellness program doesn’t target them.
  2. Inactive and intimidated at the notion of exercising.
  3. Suspicious that wellness programs invade privacy and single out employees.

However, when only a small group of employees is focused on traditional fitness programs, very little has been done to address real healthcare cost-drivers for the entire organization.

What if you didn’t have to compete with the pre-conceived notion that health & wellness is about looking fit? What if your wellness program focused on addressing inner health with the same intensity? Only then can you hope to uncover factors that lead to high healthcare claims and lost productivity. I call this approach FIT, or Found In Time. FIT engages employees in metric-bearing activities that reveal diseases and other health conditions they didn’t know they have.

The road to FIT is a journey with hills, valleys and plateaus

Understanding the FIT journey requires patience, resilience, focus and a daily commitment. This journey should never be considered a straight line to success. Likewise, expectations of your population’s participation should be tempered. Between the two graphs below, which one do you think more accurately reflects a realistic path to better health?

Inner FITness Requires Health & Wellness Paradigm Shift | Gary Cassidy | Corporate Synergies
This is why it’s important to take a realistic, long view when it comes to health & wellness. Wellness is not an immediate goal, but a goal to attain perhaps three or five years from now. It’s about completing the compliance-based phase of a wellness strategy to move into an outcome-based strategy.

We’ve put our ideas into practice. My employer launched its 2016 health & wellness program with an average weekly activity goal of 50,000 steps. We used a portal that translates physical activities, such as aerobics, gardening, biking, etc., into steps. When we launched the program, some of my coworkers were already active. I heard, “50,000 steps in a week? Heck, I hit that number in two days!” And to them I replied, “Congratulations, keep up the good work. You’re on your way to earning points toward the healthy-heart category and your annual points goals.”

Physical activity shouldn’t comprise the entire wellness program. Just because someone hits their weekly step count, it doesn’t mean that they’re truly healthy—that they’ve reached the FIT status. They may be building muscle and burning calories through daily activity, but what about their cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure or glucose? Is their body mass index in range? Is their waist a healthy circumference?

Metric-bearing tests define an employer’s true healthcare cost… and employee health & wellness.

To answer these questions, we incented our internal health & wellness program with an opportunity for my coworkers to earn a discount on their 2017 healthcare premium by reaching the platinum status, the highest level of points. The platinum level required them to do more than walk, jog or swim. They earned points by participating in metric-bearing activities, such as annual health checkups and screening tests, and preventive measures, like immunizations. The goal was to help them determine if they were FIT on the inside while creating an environment that incorporated physical activity into daily life.

My coworkers stepped up to the challenge. By the end of 2016, overall participation in our health & wellness program was an eye-popping 88%. And 57% achieved the platinum level to earn a discount on their healthcare premiums in 2017. Spouses who reached the platinum level also earned a premium discount. Employees not enrolled in our health plan (but who have benefits elsewhere) received a gift card for reaching platinum. The 20% of participants who achieved the next level, gold, maintained their current level of contributions in 2017.

These incentives worked. We heard lots of positive feedback, and we’re repeating the program this year.

Now you know that inner FITness is a harder target to hit than just racking up 50,000 steps in a week. Metric-bearing tests that measure health usually start with a wellness exam, teeth cleaning and oral exam, vision test, skin cancer screening or mammogram. These activities help people define where they are and where they need to go, and should be part of any corporate health & wellness program.

Moreover, metric-bearing tests define an organization’s true healthcare costs, renewals and profitability. Wellness programs that focus on FITness help everyone create a true picture of corporate and personal health.  Subscribe to our WellnessMINUTE video series for more information.


© 2017 Corporate Synergies Group, LLC. No part of this material may be republished or distributed without prior written consent.

Download PDF   Subscribe to the Knowledge Center