By Chuck Gillespie, executive director, Wellness Council of Indiana
Let’s keep this very basic and understand that each of the four target markets requires a similar message but a completely different strategy. Employers that don’t recognize this often can – and will – struggle with engagement regarding health improvement strategies.
- Workplace: The strategy for workplace wellness requires a combination of clinical and behavioral health that impacts the work environment and bottom line. It should include disease management programs involving health care claims costs, programs that encourage social interaction, financial fitness initiatives that help employees live within their economic means, and an emphasis on corporate social responsibility and career counseling to assist employees in understanding their role at the office.
- School: The strategy for schools must include following legislative requirements to obtain government funding, physical activity, nutrition programs and developing a classroom environment that encourages positive learning experiences. In addition, schools must deploy workplace wellness strategies to ensure teachers, administrators and others also are gaining insight to a quality of life initiative.
- Community: The strategy for communities must include smart growth and built-environment concepts. The latter specifically focuses on active and integrative spaces for interaction, as well as safer routes for pedestrian, bicycle and motorized vehicle traffic. Destination routes may revolve around parks, farmers’ markets, concerts, festivals and other activities to engage citizens. The community must be safe and provide opportunities for its people to “brag” about where they live. Communities also must integrate school and workplace concepts into their focus. Outstanding schools and workplaces are key success factors in building and sustaining a thriving community.
- Individual: I believe this strategy is overlooked because the above trio of strategies consumes the most time and resources. Because workplaces typically have limited means and financial backing for their wellness strategies, programs often must be stratified into group or whole population management. This means that many of the offerings will not meet the desires of a large percentage of your workforce.
Schools, for instance, have so many rules and regulations for wellness as it relates to students that designing customized programs for those individuals and staff is too costly. Community wellness initiatives have an even larger population diversity, from lower socioeconomic groups that are simply trying to survive to higher earners who have disposable income they can spend on extracurricular activities.
Workplace, school and community strategies must engage individuals who have different needs and wants. Understand what your strategy is trying to accomplish by measuring what matters and understanding where your limited time and resources must be utilized. Remember: You can only accomplish your expectations if you’ve set goals, established your needs, defined a viable budget and garnered the support necessary to ensure success.
Implementing outstanding wellness programs at work, in schools and in communities is not a quick fix. It requires difficult decisions. Wellness programs alone cannot change individuals’ personal decisions or genetic makeup – this is why your initiative would benefit from expertise, evaluations and analysis offered through brokers, consultants and the Wellness Council of Indiana. Although boosting wellness may necessitate financial backing, you can benefit tremendously from taking advantage of the knowledge and expertise that are available.