Got feedback? Get it to lift stalled program

A failed program is one that workers unaware of

Companies looking to cut costs may take one look at an occupational health program that isn't getting results and decide to cut their losses. Before things get to that point, get some feedback from employees about the program. To get the best possible results:

• Do surveys or post suggestion boxes to make it easy for participants to give input.

"Once a program is offered, give employees a way to provide feedback," says Christine M. Kalina, MBA, MS, RN, FAAOHN, COHN-S/CM, director of global employee health and wellness at MedImmune in Gaithersburg, MD. "Maybe they want ten more programs like it, or a different program on something specific."

• Set goals and objectives for the program, then tie these into your marketing strategy.

"It is important to understand that marketing involves many different concepts, not just advertising," she says.

• Base programs on the health risks in the population.

There is no sense in having a healthy pregnancy program if there are very few women of childbearing age. "There are a limited amount of resources available," she says. "Target programs to make the best use of them."

• Make sure leaders model a healthy lifestyle.

Do managers ridicule employees who choose fitness walks over going outside for a smoke? Are buildings filled with snack machines containing only junk food and soda? If so, money spent on wellness programs is likely to be wasted.

"You cannot promote wellness on one side, and ask your employees to work in unsafe conditions at the same time," says Kenneth A. Pravetz, health and safety officer at the Virginia Beach Fire Department. "Marketing does not make a program successful. The organization must incorporate the wellness program into its culture."

• Develop programs on issues that are prevalent in your insurance pool.

"You can invest millions in diabetic programs, but if your work force is not at high risk, or you do not look at other risk factors that lead to diabetic problems, your money will be wasted," says Pravetz. He gives these recommendations:

— Focus your wellness investments on the issues that your employees are dealing with.

— Find the indicators in your population for manageable diseases.

— Lower pharmacy copays for medications that control progressive diseases.

— Encourage disease management to offset emergency treatment.

If programs aren't getting results, market them with a new focus on prevention and disease management, based on actual medical experience.

"Disease prevention and reduced medical costs are good indicators of a successful program," says Pravetz. "A failed program is one that employees are not aware of, has no focus, is not based on actual experience, and has no advocates."

Sources

For more information on making wellness programs a success, contact:

Christine M. Kalina, MBA, MS, RN, FAAOHN, COHN-S/CM, Director, Global Employee Health and Wellness, MedImmune, Gaithersburg, MD. Phone: (301) 398-2805. E-mail: cmkalina@sbcglobal.net.

Kenneth A. Pravetz, Health and Safety Officer, Virginia Beach Fire Department. Phone: (757) 385-8713. E-mail: kpravetz@vbgov.com.