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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 30, 2002

More companies realizing advantages of wellness programs

By Gregory Weaver
Indianapolis Star

While not every employer can provide an on-site fitness center, an ever-increasing number of companies and small businesses are looking for ways to keep workers healthy and fit.

Monica Kendrick, 31, of Anthem Inc., lost 42 pounds working out in the company gym. Anthem says the program exemplifies the company's mission to improve the health of people it serves.

Gannett News Service

"Because employers are under increased cost pressures, there is renewed interest and excitement about health promotion and medical management," said Carrie Haltom, a healthcare consultant for Illinois-based Hewitt Associates.

As health insurance costs have surged by double digits, the number of companies offering health-promotion programs has spiked to 93 percent after hovering in the mid-80s for much of the past decade, according to a Hewitt survey.

Wellness programs sponsored by businesses can range from typical flu shots and blood-pressure screenings to comprehensive plans that offer a discounted membership to a fitness club, health risk appraisals and classes designed to meet the health needs of a specific work force.

Almost every employer seems to be doing something in the name of health — and cost containment, Haltom said.

But even Hewitt acknowledges that there's not much definitive data on the savings generated by such broad programs; it takes years to measure health outcomes accurately.

However, there is increasing evidence that programs targeted at promoting the detection and treatment of diabetes, asthma and other illnesses quickly produce measurable savings.

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