Tired of all the educational and advertising messages linking lifestyle choices to your health status? Glad June’s National Employee Wellness Month is over? Well, better get used to such promotions. If the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) has its way, large employers will double down on such campaigns, trying to reach people who still insist health status is linked solely to genetics.
At a July 26 press conference, NBGH released findings from “Perceptions of Health Benefits in a Recovering Economy,” a survey of more than 1,500 adult employees of large employers that was conducted in May and June 2012.
Among many other findings, the survey found that 68% of employees said they oppose linking health plan premiums to participation in wellness programs. An open-ended question asking respondents why they responded that way shed some light on the reasoning: Those with lower health status explained that it was “unfair” to punish someone for their genetics or family history, reported NBGH Vice President Karen Marlo.
Rather than allowing respondents to self-select health status, the survey assigned respondents a “health index” based on responses to questions on height, weight, smoking status, frequency of exercising, use of a prescription for at least three months and existence of a chronic condition. Marlo said the findings contradict her assumption that “there was an understanding of the role behavior plays in many conditions.” In fact, she said, “there’s still a belief that it’s all about destiny.”
Such a belief “allows them to be passive,” added NBGH President Helen Darling, rather than taking responsibility for improving their health status. NBGH called for employers to make a case for the relationship between lifestyle, good health and health care costs.
So even though June is already over, every month soon may be National Employee Wellness Month.
What do you think? Does this messaging work – or do employees simply tune it out?