Wellness Programs provide big ROI – says Harvard Business Review study

A 2010 Harvard Business Review Article had some astounding things to say about  the ‘hard return’ of wellness programs. Their conclusion? Wellness program provide a terrific return on investment.

“…a comprehensive, strategically designed investment in employees’ social, mental, and physical health pays off. J&J’s leaders estimate that wellness programs have cumulatively saved the company $250 million on health care costs over the past decade; from 2002 to 2008, the return was $2.71 for every dollar spent.”

The article goes on to refer to a number of studies touting the benefits of wellness programs for your company. In a separate study, 57% of high-risk employees were converted to low-risk status, with significant financial benefits for the company:

“…medical claim costs had declined by $1,421 per participant, compared with those from the previous year. A control group showed no such improvements. The bottom line: Every dollar invested in the intervention yielded $6 in health care savings.”

But the companies surveyed saw a number of other improvements as well — not just on financial return.  Lost work days, in one example, dropped by an astounding 80%. Another study found that a well-implemented wellness program caused a dramatic reduction in employee attrition. Clearly, taking an active stake in your employees’ wellness makes a difference in their health and happiness — and to your bottom line as well.

Find out what works and what doesn’t by reading the whole study. Then head over to our walking programs for corporations to learn more about adding an engaging, effective walking challenge to your wellness program.

Is driving related to obesity (spoiler: yes)

Good Magazine has a fantastic graphic comparing state ranking in walking / biking / public transportation / car usage versus obesity rates. It doesn’t pull any punches. Entitled: Driving Is Why You’re Fat, I think it’s pretty easy to guess the outcome of their analysis. Here’s a sample (lower numbers on cars means less driving, lower numbers on others means more of that activity):

Good Magazine - 'Driving is why you're fat'

Go District of Columbia! Have a look at the chart to check out your state. Meanwhile, I’ll be here re-assessing my transportation options…

Oregon seems to do OK – we have a great bike community. As for walking, we’re 13th in the nation.


Grant alert: Building evidence to prevent childhood obesity

From time to time I’m going to post information about grants that are related to obesity, children and schools, and walking and physical activity. In most cases, this would not be something we’d seek ourselves (we’re not a non-profit), but I would think our community might like to know about these, and we’d be more than happy to work with any grant-recipients, of course, in realizing the grants.

This looks like a good one.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – Active Living Research: Building Evidence to Prevent Childhood Obesity

The purpose of the grant is to support research to inform policy and environmental strategies for increasing physical activity among children and adolescents, decreasing their sedentary behaviors and preventing obesity. The program places emphasis on reaching children and youths who are at highest risk for obesity: Black, Latino, American Indian and Asian/Pacific Islander children, as well as children who live in under-resourced and lower-income communities.

A total of up to $1.5 million will be awarded. The maximum award for a single grant is $150,000. Preference will be given to applicants who are either public entities or 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. Applicant organizations must be based in the United States or its territories.

Deadline: July 1, 2010

Please contact the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for more information and to apply to this funding: http://www.rwjf.org/applications/solicited/cfp.jsp?ID=21121&cid=xem-emc-fa

Via The Center for Healthcare in the Schools

Does Corn Syrup equal Obesity?

According to a new study out of Princeton, rats who have access to high fructose corn syrup become obese.
No surprise, right?
But this is compared to rats who consumed equal caloric amounts of table sugar. Those rats fared fine.

“This creates a fascinating puzzle. The rats in the Princeton study became obese by drinking high-fructose corn syrup, but not by drinking sucrose. The critical differences in appetite, metabolism and gene expression that underlie this phenomenon are yet to be discovered, but may relate to the fact that excess fructose is being metabolized to produce fat, while glucose is largely being processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate, called glycogen, in the liver and muscles.”

In addition to drastically lower activity levels, corn syrup certainly seems a likely candidate for blame for radically increased obesity levels in the US:

“In the 40 years since the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup as a cost-effective sweetener in the American diet, rates of obesity in the U.S. have skyrocketed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1970, around 15 percent of the U.S. population met the definition for obesity; today, roughly one-third of the American adults are considered obese.”

Read about the study at Princeton:
A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain

Cost effective ways to promote physical exercise in adults?

There’s an intriguing new study out of Australia (University of Queensland) this week. They studied six types of interventions to encourage physical activity in adults, the two most cost-effective were:

  • pedometers
  • mass media campaigns

The press release is here.

I liked the editors’ summary (pdf), which contained this opener:

The human body needs regular physical activity throughout life to stay healthy. Physical activity—any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that uses energy—helps to maintain a healthy body weight and to prevent or delay heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and breast cancer. In addition, physically active people feel better and live longer than physically inactive people. For an adult, 30 minutes of moderate physical activity—walking briskly, gardening, swimming, or cycling—at least five times a week is sufficient to promote and maintain health. But at least 60% of the world’s population does not do even this modest amount of physical activity.

The daily lives of people in both developed and developing countries are becoming increasingly sedentary. People are sitting at desks all day instead of doing manual labor; they are driving to work in cars instead of walking or cycling; and they are participating less in physical activities during their leisure time.