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Worker wellness program can yield millions

Nov. 19, 2010 at 2:01 AM

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Well-designed employee wellness programs can yield savings of as much as $6 for each dollar spent on the health intervention, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers led by Leonard L. Berry of Texas A&M University, Ann M. Mirabito of Baylor University and William B. Baun of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, say since Johnson & Johnson incorporated a wellness program in 1995, the percentage of its employees who smoke dropped by more than two-thirds.

Those with high-blood pressure or who are physically inactive declined by more than one-half and the wellness program saved $250 million on healthcare costs from 2002 to 2008 -- or a return of $2.71 for every dollar spent, the researchers say.

Richard Milani and Carl Lavie said one study involved a random sample of 185 workers and their spouses, who were not heart patients but received heart exercise training from an expert team.

Of those diagnosed at high heart risk -- for body fat, blood pressure, anxiety and other measures -- 57 percent were converted to low-risk status by the end of a six-month period. In addition, the company's medical claim costs had declined by $1,421 per participant, compared to the costs from the previous year.

In addition, a well-designed employee wellness program can translate into reduced employee turnover.

The findings are scheduled to be published in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review.