U.S. employers more dedicated to wellness

Stress management, weight loss on agendas

American employers are doing more to promote their employees’ wellness than ever before, according to a recent study by the American Management Association (AMA), and are doing so because they say employers are duty-bound to ensure the health of their workers.

The AMA’s 2004 Survey on Corporate Health and Wellness Programs reveals that 27% of the 211 companies surveyed are offering more wellness programs than they did in 2003. The number of programs was up in all seven categories surveyed — exercise and fitness, smoking cessation, blood pressure management, weight management, stress management, cholesterol management, and nutrition.

Also, the number of executives that believe corporate America has a responsibility to promote wellness increased, from 71% in 2003 to 80% in 2004. Nearly three out of four (72%) respondents say they attend the wellness programs when their company sponsors them, up from 63% in 2003. The management association says that employees are attending wellness sessions — such as stress-management seminars — more often than in 2003, despite the fact that only 35% of companies that offer wellness programs give employees incentives for participating.

Forty-five percent of the companies surveyed offer discounts or corporate memberships to health clubs for their employees, and 22% have exercise facilities available on the company’s premises. Another 56% said their organizations participate in community- or corporate-sponsored athletic activities, such as softball leagues, bowling teams, or fundraiser walks/runs.

Thirty percent of respondents say their companies have cafeterias that provide or sell meals for employees, and 69% say that the selections offered are healthy, including fruits, vegetables, and low-fat entrees. Thirty-six percent of companies offer corporate-sponsored, comprehensive annual physicals: 18% say they are extended to executives only, and 18% indicate they are for all staff members. Nearly three out of four (74%) companies that responded provide flu shots, but 79% of those companies had cancelled or postponed the program due to the current shortage of the vaccine.

The most popular wellness programs are exercise and fitness, with 55% of employees reporting participation, followed by smoking cessation and blood pressure management at 49% each.