Over recent years, there has been an increase in the prevalence of chronic diseases majorly because of individuals’ physical inactivity, inadequate consumption of healthy foods, and the use of tobacco products. As a result, healthcare spending has severely increased among adults, especially the working-class population. Following that, large employer groups in the United States (U.S.) and worldwide have adopted worksite wellness programs to solve the issue. The programs aim at providing an environment that supports the employees and encourages them to lead healthy lifestyles. Employees, for instance, in the U.S., spend approximately 8.8 hours every day in activities that are related to their professional lines or occupation (Ryan et al., 2019). Therefore, employers have the best opportunity to interact and educate them on how to adopt healthy lifestyles. One of the significant barriers faced by the majority of employers in implementing wellness programs is motivating the workers to participate in the activity. Therefore, these large employer groups have embarked on the use of incentives to attract and convince employees to undertake health measures. As a result, the analysis conducted in this paper focuses on reviewing the wellness programs of various large employer groups. Besides, the paper will discuss the different types of incentives that they offer to their employees to participate in the health programs.
Different companies offer distinct wellness programs depending on their financial muscles and nature of operations. For instance, in 2019, Amazon Company launched Amazon Care, a virtual health clinic that enables health providers to check on the firm’s employees and their families in Seattle (Farr, 2019). The program provides in-person services such as in-app video visits with a nurse or doctor for medical advices, treatment, or diagnosis. Furthermore, it has a mobile application and a website where workers can communicate with health providers and receive feedback on a specific subject within a short time.
The company offers an opportunity for the workers to pick their preferred pharmacies as an incentive and motivation to participate in the program (Farr, 2019). However, Amazon is not the only tech company that offers health-related benefits to its employers as Apple also has established its health clinics: A.C. Wellness (Farr, 2019). Despite being a separate subsidiary of Apple, A.C. Wellness is dedicated to providing healthcare services to its employees in Santa Clara County. Through the program, the firm has been able to hire wellness professionals, including exercise specialists, nutritionists, and nurse practitioners. Elsewhere, Facebook offers free bikes to employees as an incentive to ensure the success of their bike-sharing fitness programs.
On the other, companies in the transportation sector have also used various wellness programs to boost the productivity of their employees. For instance, Union Pacific, North America’s premier railroad franchise, offers a wellness program called Virgin Pulse to its workers (Union Pacific [UP], n.d). The program is accessible to all full time salaried, active non-agreement, reduced salaried, and fulltime hourly individuals that are employed by the company. It allows the workers to feel energized or motivated, lose weight, and live healthier lifestyles.
Also, Union Pacific guarantees incentives of up to 600 dollars to all employees who participate and complete the activities offered by the program during a year. Union Pacific also demonstrates its dedication towards the promotion of healthy lifestyles by providing a system health facility program (SHF) to its active workers (UP, n.d). The program involves the signing of contracts between the company and several chosen fitness centers and gyms that are close to the firm's premises.
Unlike Union Pacific that relied on nurses, Con-Way Freight (C.F.) contracted with Wellness Coaches USA (WCUSA) to provide onsite fitness services to the company’s employees (Osland et al., 2011). WCUSA offers face to face coaching services for healthy dietary patterns, physical activities, and cessation of smoking. The success and efficiency of the coaches are mainly because of their ability to build professional relationships characterized by trust, confidentiality, and active engagement.
They apply effective techniques such as walking, smoking cessation, and weight loss contests. The competitions, along with other incentives such as gift cards, build a jovial and motivating environment for the activities (Osland et al., 2011). Also, C.F. awarded winners of the competitions with certificates to recognize and appreciate their efforts. Elsewhere, The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) has also been among the leaders of wellness programs for decades. The company provides an extensive wellness program known as Participation, Activity, Commitment, and Evaluation (PACE) (Osland et al., 2011).
All employees of the company, along with their insured spouses, are eligible for the activity for free. PACE assists them in managing a healthy lifestyle through weight loss and tobacco cessation initiatives, and advices from health coaches. The transportation company offers financial incentives of up to 250 dollars a year for employees who participate in various programs of PACE (Osland et al., 2011). However, the money earned is not given directly to the workers, but instead, it is placed in a Health Reimbursement Account of the beneficiary. Therefore, the funds are available for reimbursement when an employee incurs expenses related to health issues, as outlined in Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code.
Farr, C. (2019, September 24). Amazon launches Amazon Care, a virtual medical clinic for employees. CNBC. Accessed on July 29, 2020, from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/24/amazon-launches-employee-health-clinic-amazon-care.html
Osland, A., Clinch, N., Ramsay, L., & Wells, P. (2011). Wellness lessons from transportation companies. Mineta Transportation Institute, 1-32 https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/23197/dot_23197_DS1.pdf?
Ryan, M., Erck, L., McGovern, L., McCabe, K., Myers, K., Nobrega, S., Li, W., Lin, W., & Punnet, L. (2019). “Working on wellness:” Protocol for a worksite health promotion capacity-building program for employers. BMC Public Health, 19(111). doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6405-1
Union Pacific. (n.d). Wellness programs. https://up.jobs/why/benefits/wellness/index.htm
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