California Employers Turn To Wellness Programs To Combat Preventable And Chronic Illnesses: SHRM

More than one-half of organizations in California offer wellness programs for their employees, according to research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The study found that 58 percent of employers in the state report having a wellness program, the survey showed. In the U.S. overall, 61 percent of employers provide them.

The snapshot of workplace wellness in California comes from SHRM’s 2012 Employee Benefits Survey, which showed that the use of wellness programs is increasing in the U.S. The results from California mirror what is being offered overall in the country. Wellness programs are more likely to be offered by publicly owned for-profit organizations and government than privately owned for-profits and nonprofits, the survey showed. The larger the employer, the more likely it included wellness offerings among its benefits.

“Wellness programs have a proven record for reducing health care costs, which are an ever growing issue in California,” said Mark Schmit, SHRM’s vice president of research.

In the state, wellness resources and information are the most common, provided by 76 percent of employers. Publications and a 24-hour nurse line are offered by more than one-half of employers. Forty-two percent of employers host health fairs. Specific preventive health initiatives include:

  • On-site seasonal flu vaccinations, offered by 54 percent of California organizations (61 percent nationally);
  • Health and lifestyle coaching (37 percent in California; 45 percent overall);
  • Health screening (39 percent in California; 45 percent overall); and
  • Smoking cessation programs (34 percent in California; 39 percent overall).

Obesity and other chronic health issues affect the well-being of employees and can have an economic impact on businesses. In response, the percent of U.S. organizations offering discounts on health care premiums for getting an annual health risk assessment and not using tobacco has increased. But in California, the percentage of employers offering these discounts is well below the national average. Just 8 percent of employers in the state offer a discount for not using tobacco, compared to 20 percent nationally. A discount for getting an annual health assessment is offered by 12 percent in California, 9 percentage points lower than the national average.

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