Investing in Corporate Wellness Programs

Jasmine Jafferali, MPH, ACE-CPT is the health and well-being director for Proactive Partners, a division of TCA Holdings LLC. Proactive Partners is a company that provides health and wellness programs with focus on fitness and exercise, stress management and fitness center management. Jafferali is responsible for developing and implementing their corporate wellness and health coaching programs. She has worked at a Fortune 100 corporate wellness facility and a high-end commercial health club setting creating wellness based programs. She also developed and is the program coordinator for the Women’s Exercise Training and Wellness online certificate program for Education Fitness Solutions Inc. and is a master trainer with Healthy Moms Fitness. She can be reached at [email protected].

Health care reform is a hot topic and is on everyone's minds. However, it is going to take more than legislation to improve the health of our nation. For many companies, medical costs can consume half or more of corporate profits. At least 25 percent of the health care costs incurred by working adults are attributed to modifiable health risks, such as poor diet and lack of exercise. More employees are spending more time at work, with their work causing them to sacrifice their health and family time. What are you doing to help improve the bottom line?

More than 600 articles analyze the research and anecdotal evidence of the cost-effectiveness of worksite wellness programs. According to the Wellness Councils of America (, more than 81 percent of businesses with 50 or more employees have some form of health promotion program—the most popular being exercise, stop-smoking classes, back care programs and stress management.

Here are some other interesting facts:

-The typical American diet is responsible for most of the preventable diseases, including 91 percent of diabetes, 82 percent of heart disease, and 71 percent of colon cancer, according to the National Health Care Statistics.

-Stress-related disorders are fast becoming the most prevalent reason for worker disability, costing between $20 billion and $30 billion annually due to worker absenteeism, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

-Obesity increases workplace costs. The annual per capita increase in medical expenditures and absenteeism associated with obesity ranges from $450 to $2,500 per obese employee. The estimated cost of obesity at a firm with 1,000 employees is about $285,000 per year, according to a January 2006 article in IDEA Fitness Journal.

-The National Safety Council stated that in 1996, backaches alone cost industry more than $1.2 billion in production and services and $275 million in workers compensation.

As fitness professionals, we have a responsibility to help people make healthier choices through coaching, education and awareness. Here are a few steps you can take in your health club:

Create a newsletter. The best way to communicate your programs, services and some health tips is to create a newsletter specifically designed for your corporate employees. This also is the most casual and least expensive way to communicate this information.

Invest in your trainers. Pay for a select few trainers to obtain a health and wellness coaching certificate outside their normal continuing education fund. If you are asking them to get this certification, then don’t penalize them by dipping into their fund. Have them sign a six-month or one-year contract of commitment after the certificate has been completed.

Start a health coaching program. Once you have a few health coaches on your team, offering ongoing health coaching programs can have a profound effect on your business and the corporation’s bottom line.

Offer corporate discounts to local companies. When businesses sign up, give them a welcome package that includes discounts or free trials of your services. Or set different rates for corporate clients to entice them.

Offer corporate wellness programs to your own employees. Just because we are in the field does not mean we do not need help in dealing with our own health and well-being. We face the same trials as nonfitness professionals do. When you take action internally, you can have happier, healthier employees, which will trickle down to your members. Don’t forget your maintenance workers, sales people and front desk staff, who may not even take advantage of what your health club has to offer.

Create corporate wellness packages. By creating packages, you are offering more than just your internal services; you are expanding your team of experts to foster their own growth and learning. Establish different rates for your corporate clients. It will make them feel like they are really part of your club. Depending upon the services you offer in your own club, packages may look something like this:

• Lunch ’n Learn Corporate Package: Two-hour program that includes a 75-minute wellness seminar and lunch for your employees. Raffle off a 60-minute massage to make it more fun.

• Half Day Wellness Package: Four-hour program includes a 75-minute seminar, lunch and team-building activity for employees. Team activity may be a 50-minute cycle and yoga class, volleyball, etc.

• Health Fairs: Partnering with local businesses and offering health fairs for companies can really give your club great exposure to the services you currently offer. In addition, who can partner with hospitals for cholesterol screenings, massage therapists, chiropractors, dietitians, chefs for cooking demonstrations, food vendors for healthy food samples and local nonprofits.

The possibilities are endless. Companies are beginning to realize the importance of investing into their employees’ health and well-being. It is cost-effective and well worth the time and effort for you to get involved.

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