I think I can’ people are target audience

Select those ready to change and offer incentives

Offering wellness programs and getting people to participate in them are two separate issues. In an effort to improve employee health, corporations often either subsidize or cover membership costs at a health club.

Unfortunately, the effort doesn’t do much to change health behaviors, says Shelley Dacey, assistant general manager for The Sports Barn, a fitness center in Chattanooga, TN. "What usually happens is that the people who would have used the club anyhow are using it, and the other employees aren’t participating. There is no motivation factor and the company is not changing anyone’s life style," she explains.

To remedy this problem, the fitness club designed WellFit, an outcomes management program targeting high-risk employees who are ready to change their unhealthy behaviors. Participation is strictly volunteer, with all employees who wish to join filling out an application that includes a health history and fitness appraisal.

Those at greatest risk are selected for the program. The number of participants depends on how many employees the company has agreed to admit, which is usually an economic factor.

The three-month program begins with a thorough health assessment, which may include cholesterol testing and a stress test at a local hospital. Each participant is assigned a case manager who writes a fitness prescription, meets with the client weekly, and enters detailed data on each client into a computer database.

Before an exercise prescription is written, participants fill out a couple of questionnaires. One is designed to determine self-motivation levels, and the second pinpoints personal goals. "If someone says their only concern is weight loss and they don’t care about flexibility, we prescribe cardio activities because we know if we have them do stretching and weights they will quit. We just target what will motivate them and hope that in time they will change," says Dacey.

After a fitness prescription is written, participants take a test called the exercise-induced feeling inventory that helps determine if the exercise plan is at the right fitness level. They take the test before and after they exercise.

To further motivate participants, staff are trained in behavior modification techniques. Also, lunchtime lectures are provided at the work site to help educate clients in nutrition and fitness, and each client is given a nutritional assessment. "Throughout the 12 weeks, participants are tracked as far as attendance and mood to determine if they are still motivated," says Dacey.

While people must be ready to make lifestyle changes in order for wellness programs to have an effect, incentives can motivate people, says Gina Streed, RN, MBA, COHN-S, the manager for employee health and wellness at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. To prompt employees at its health care facility to sign up, booths are set up at various locations in the facility throughout the year.

Also, those who enroll are given $40 worth of "action bucks," which can be used to purchase items such as T-shirts, sweat shirts, and coffee mugs as soon as enrollees complete their health risk appraisals. They continue to earn action bucks for participating in programs, attending classes, and meeting the health goals they have set with the help of a staff member.