A few years ago my husband worked for a large aircraft manufacturer. At the start of a new year, each employee was made to get a full physical to create a baseline for their health. At the same time the next year, each employee would have to do it again, and if they’d improved or at least maintained their insurance premiums would be reduced. This seemed like a no-brainer because he’s not overweight, doesn’t smoke and doesn’t have any diseases or risk factors for things like diabetes or high blood pressure. Throughout the year the company supported everyone’s efforts by sending a package once a month with a variety of things like a cutting board encouraging us to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, floss to maintain dental hygeine, and a book called The Culprit and the Cure.
The following year we got our insurance discount. I’m certain many others did, but also certain many did not. At the time, I couldn’t help but wonder — do companies have a right to do this?
“I absolutely think they do,” Dr. Pamela Peeke told me. She cited the interconnectedness of an employee’s health and a company’s bottom line, which can ultimately impact the local economy. “The only way to implement a corporate wellness program is also to provide ways for people to get off the ‘stuff.’ They need counseling, guidance, and discounts.” By stuff she means cigarettes, unhealthy eating habits, alcohol, or anything else that creates a barrier between staff and a healthy lifestyle.
Dr. Peeke and I spoke last week about the rising need for and popularity of corporate wellness programs. Dr. Peeke has an impressive resume that includes the Chief Medical Correspondent for Discovery Health, author of Fight Fat After Forty, and the founder of the The Peeke Performance Center for Healthy Living.
“It is absolutely growing,” Dr. Peeke said about the rise of corporate wellness programs. “There’s no question. People have no choice now.” She cited that for every one dollar a business spends on wellness for its employees, they get five dollars back in the way of productivity and less absenteeism. As well, costly insurance premiums are reduced when they aren’t carrying the burden of unhealthy employees. To companies that still balk at the idea of the added work or expense of a program, Dr. Peeke says, “For crying out loud, we’re investing in the health of these people.”
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