wellnessEmployers betting on wellness programs seem to be making the right call.They're seeing $1 to $3 decreases in their overall health carecosts for every dollar spent, finds a report from the International Foundation of Employee BenefitPlans.

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“Without question, employers are beginning to understand thedirect connection that wellness initiatives can have on bothemployee health and health care plan cost savings,” says MichaelWilson, Foundation CEO. “While the primary goal is reducing healthcosts, we're also seeing other advantages from wellnessinitiatives, such as higher employee morale, increased productivityand reduced disability.”

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The report also finds that wellness program incentives — such asinsurance premium reductions and communications tools like weblinks and social networks — are used more by organizations that areachieving positive returns on their wellness investment.

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Still, only 19 percent of organizations are measuring return onROI on wellness programs, Wilson says.

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See also: Employers not measuring ROI on wellnessprograms

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IFEBP divided the respondents of the survey into two groups, theROI group and the non-ROI group based on whether they measured andachieved positive returns.

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Insurance premium reductions for participation in wellnessprograms accounted for the biggest difference between the twogroups, with 49 percent of the ROI group providing this incentiveas opposed to just 29 percent of the non-ROI group.

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Other popular incentives included gift cards and non-cashincentives/prizes/raffles. Those in the ROI group were also morelikely than their counterparts to attach incentives to specifictypes of initiatives such as health screenings (65 percent to 43percent), health risk assessments (74 percent to 51 percent) andhealth care coaches/advocates (43 percent to 22 percent).

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Participation among members of organizations in the ROI groupincreased dramatically when incentives are tied to healthscreenings and health risk assessments, the report shows.

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Communication was another factor in achieving positive ROI. And,most organizations (74 percent) experiencing ROI are more likely tohave a broader value-based health care strategy that offersinitiatives such as health screenings, stress management programs,health risk assessments, and fitness and nutrition programscompared to just 45 percent of the non-ROI group.

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“Determining ROI can be of great benefit for employers—leadingto increased buy-in from organizational leaders and workers,” saysJulie Stich, IFEBP's director of research.

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But she says it's still not an easy process, as ROI can be“difficult to measure since health improvement may be influenced bya combination of factors and because it can take anywhere fromthree to five years to see cost-saving results.”

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See also: Colonial Life Paper Links Health Care Cost Containment to WellnessPrograms

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Roughly 650 people from the United States and Canada weresurveyed in February.

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For more on this topic, see The Financial Virtue of Wellness.

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