Worksite Health Programs : Creating a Corporate Health Promotion Program Strategy for Fitness and Health

Worksite Health Programs : Creating a Corporate Health Promotion Program Strategy for Fitness and Health

As businesses today continue to compete in the worldwide economy, expenditure containment strategies will be increasingly valuable. Controlling the rising expenditure of employee ill health is becoming a priority for corporate leaders. The emerging corporate culture in America is one which has an employee population centered in health, safety and wellness.

Developing a corporate strategy for Corporate Wellness Programs and disability management makes great corporation sense. The following eight-step process ensures a strategic, integrated, needs-driven and outcome-oriented approach.

The following process works best in companies with strong leadership and a long-term commitment to employee health.

1. Identify Your Corporate Wellness Program Champion

This person should be a leader in your organization and a strong advocate of health. Typically this is an individual who actively pursues his or her own personal quest for good health.

The program champion must have the resources and authority to propel the program forward. The program champion’s key role is to be sure the strategic plan for health is aligned with the corporation’s objectives, strategic focus and corporation values. By way of example if the organization promotes that “our strength is our people” the wellness program must show how initiatives will nurture and protect that important resource.

2. Form Your Worksite Health Promotion Program Strategy Team

The Company Wellness Program Strategy Team should include decision makers and stakeholders from parts of the corporation that have the potential to effect health and the company’s bottom line. These areas may include; finance, human resources(HR), training and development, health services, compensation and benefits, employee assistance services (EAP), marketing, facilities, health and safety, rehabilitation, cafeteria or food services and the union. A team of six to eight representatives is recommended.

The role of the Strategy Team is to cultivate and start the strategic plan, look for opportunities to reward health, make sure the program is integrated into key areas of the organization, streamline efforts, maximize business resources and program evaluation.

3. Complete an Employer Health Audit

The purpose of an Organization Health Audit is to evaluate your existing programs and services, physical environment and policies & procedures that support health. It is also valuable to look at your organization culture or “how things are done” around the organization.

Participants of the Strategy Team complete the Audit independently and then meet to discuss their evaluation. During the evaluation process, health problems and opportunities are discussed in preparation for the development of the strategic plan.

4. Analyze Your Organization’s Cost Pressures

Cost pressures are identified by analyzing a number of areas including; benefit expenditures, Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) claims, drug usage, type of paramedic claims, absenteeism data and EAP utilization. This process helps to target areas that can be positively impacted by a Company Health Promotion Program and to support a baseline for evaluating change.

5. Conduct a Health Risk Appraisal or Employee Needs & Interest Survey

The next step is to determine your employee’s health risks, interests and readiness to change. A confidential health risk appraisal can accomplish numerous goals and objectives. It supplies a baseline from which to measure personal lifestyle changes, supplies workers with relevant health information, motivates workers to take charge of their health and assists in program planning. Most health risk appraisals offer individual reports and a corporate report identifying high-risk areas in the corporation.

Many companies choose to administer customized needs and interest survey to evaluate employee needs. The benefit of this approach is that the company is able to gather information on the employees’ perceived wellness needs and program interests. This information can be incorporated into the strategic plan. Administering a survey also has the added benefit of fostering a sense of employee ownership to the program.

6. Organize Your Strategic Plan for Wellness

The strategic plan must incorporate information gathered from the Corporation Health Audit, your organization’s expense pressures, and health risk appraisal data or employee survey results. The strategic plan must include your program mission, three or four objectives and several drives under each objective. The strategic plan supplies a framework to encourage, reinforcement and evaluate “best health practices.”

It is also valuable that the plan align itself with the vision, goals/objectives of the organization.

The sample strategic plan that follows was developed for blue jeans maker Levi Strauss & Co. (Canada) Inc. Levi Strauss & Co.’s mission statement and aspirations (how employees interact with each other in a corporation environment) guided the development of the plan.

Levi Strauss & Co.’s aspirations include the following statement: Above all, we want satisfaction from accomplishments and friendships, balanced personal and professional lives, and to enjoy our endeavors. The wellness program plan included a number of components to make sure that it embraced this statement including the following:

1. A vision statement, which tied in with the company’s aspirations.
2. An incentive system to encourage and reward the accomplishment of healthy milestones.
3. A recognition system to applaud performance.
4. Friendly competitions between Levi Strauss & Co. locations to ensure a fun environment.
5. Opportunities to participate in small group educational programs to cultivate team reinforcement.
6. Initiation of support groups for employees completing wellness programs (i.e. smoking control support group).
7. Programs concerning work and family balance.

Other information that was analyzed and used to foster the plan included:

1. Business demographics
2. Focus groups
3. Cultural audit
4. Top prescription drug report
5. EAP utilization
6. Employee benefit services report
7. Health and dental claims
8. Operational performance summaries
9. Health risk appraisals
7. Prepare a Company Case to Support Your Plan

Your company case for wellness supplies the necessary details for approval at the management level. The company case includes:

1. The Strategic Plan for Health
2. A proposed program budget
3. Marketing strategies
4. Program leadership options
5. An implementation plan
6. Evaluation methodology.

In presenting the strategic plan it is valuable to highlight how the plan aligns itself with the strategic direction of the organization.

The program budget should include educational resources, marketing expenditures, incentives and rewards, leadership expenditures and supplies.

Marketing strategies must address how the program will be promoted and rolled out to various groups within the organization i.e. decentralized locations, high risk employees, older employees.

Program leadership ought to address how volunteers will be used, internal resources and whether consultants have been proposed. All play an equally significant role in the implementation of your wellness program.

The program implementation plan must incorporate the following types of programs that help foster awareness of positive health practices, support employees in making lifestyle changes and drives, which support long-term change.

Awareness programs establish an awareness of the importance of healthy lifestyle practices and encourage workers to take the next step. Examples of awareness programs include posting educational posters, newsletter articles and lunch and learn classes.

Lifestyle change programs are more comprehensive and longer in duration. They are designed to help workers in changing behavior. Examples of lifestyle change programs are diet education programs, stress management programs, back care classes and smoking control programs.

A supportive corporate environment encompasses everything from corporate policies & procedures, the physical environment and creating a corporate culture that supports great health practices. Follow-up sessions and support groups for employees who have completed 6-10 week wellness programs also support a supportive environment for long-term change.

Analyzing the effectiveness of a Corporate Health Promotion Program is ongoing. A formal assessment must be conducted each year and may include; re-administering steps three to five, program participation statistics and a year end survey to revisit “soft” concerns such as morale, program satisfaction and future program direction.

8. Solicit Input and Communicate Your Plan

Employee input is vital to the long-term success of your program. An Employee Advisory Committee should be formed to roll out the plan. Another key responsibility of this group is to solicit feedback from all levels of the organization to ensure buy-in. Front line Manager’s Information Sessions and focus groups are also important. This group needs to buy-in to the notion that they play a key role in supporting beneficial health practices. Regular gatherings are advised with front line managers to receive ongoing input, address issues and orient new managers.


The World Health Organization’s definition of health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellness and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” In order for us to create healthy workplaces, wellness pushes must have a program champion, have employee ownership, be upper management supported, outcome driven and strategically aligned with the overriding corporation objectives of the organization.

Wellness program that embrace these qualities will have a positive influence on an organization’s bottom line. Canadian research points to countless case studies where worksite programs have resulted in diminished absenteeism, decrease claims and increased work rate.

Corporations who have embraced wellness as part of “how they do business” share one thing in common. They confirm a responsibility to their most valuable resource – their people. They be aware of the increased pressures associated with downsized organizations, a rapidly changing workplace, an aging work force and the challenge of balancing work and family obligations. And they share a common belief that healthy workers are happier, absent less and more constructive.

Design of Company Health Promotion Programs by Michael P. O’Donnell. 1995. Published by the American Journal of Health Promotion.
Pro Fit-ability by Veronica Marsden. Group Healthcare Management. May 1997.
Meeting Expectations by Laura Mensch. Employee Health and Productivity. August 1999
7 Steps to Health Promotion by Daphne Woolf and Veronica Marsden. Group Healthcare Management. February 1996.
Published in The Journal of Health Promotion for Northern Ireland, Issue 9, March 2000