(Continued from page 2)

5. Go for the low-hanging fruit. As you begin to look at the data, a picture of your company’s wellness challenges will start to form. Your biggest problems will stand out. For instance, maybe 25 percent of your employees smoke, or there’s a high rate of obesity in your workforce. These numbers might actually be the easiest to move, so focus on the issues they represent first.

“At one company I worked with, smoking numbers were very high, and the rate of bronchitis and lung cancers was also higher than average,” recounts Dr. Carm. “So the wellness committee decided to grasp this low-hanging fruit and go smoke-free. In other words, no more smoking in front of the building or on any company property. This was a good strategy, because studies have shown that going smoke-free can decrease smoking rates in a company by 6 percent. People who are smoking socially or for stress relief won’t put up with the hassle of having to walk off property or giving up their lunch hour to find a suitable place to light up. We had 10 people quit smoking in the first month!

“When you are starting a workplace wellness program, you really want a successful first year,” she adds. “You need a win to let employees know that this program is not just a ‘flavor of the month,’ but is something that your organization believes in and will invest in.”

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for freebies. Paying for a wellness program can be costly, but not if you know where to go for discounted services and freebies. First, make sure that you are getting all the help you possibly can from your health insurance carrier. It is in their best interest to keep your employees healthy and you happy, and that means low claim costs. At the very least, your insurer should be able to provide a health risk assessment, and beyond that, most will cover the cost of having a health fair with biometrics. The labs can run through the medical claims so that should not be an extra charge.

“If your insurer isn’t willing to help with a health fair, or if you are a small employer, health risk assessments are available free of charge online—and you can collate the information yourself,” points out Dr. Carm. “Another great source is Welcoa.org. The Wellness Council of America provides all kinds of free stuff for the asking.” She also recommends looking for help in the following areas:

• Ask local healthcare providers to perform biometrics. Doctors who are new to the area can get established by spending a couple hours of doing blood pressure checks, and health fairs are a great way for hospitals and group practices to market themselves.

• Weight Watchers will come to your office and do a program as long as you have 15 people to participate.

• The American Lung Association can provide assistance with a smoking cessation program. And as a result of a smoking litigation settlement that occurred several years ago, various states have great—and free!—online resources for smoking.

• The American Diabetes Association may be able to assist with a diabetes education program or free screening.

“The bottom line is, don’t be afraid to ask,” says Dr. Carm. “The worst a person or organization can say is no!”