News Release: Research , School of Public Health

Sep. 10,  2008

Workplace Wellness Program Offers Good Return on Investment

A workplace wellness program aimed at reducing weight and improving health risk factors in obese employees could produce a short-term return on investment (ROI) of $1.17 per dollar spent, reports a study in the September Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The one-year study found that a program of telephone-based health coaching for weight management changed employees' behavior, reduced their health risk factors, and could achieve an ROI of $1.17 to $1.00. The study estimated total projected savings of $311,755. Fifty-nine percent of the projected savings was attributed to reduced healthcare spending costs for the employer, and 41 percent to improvements in employee productivity.

"Every day in the business world, financial analysts utilize mathematical econometric models to predict future outcomes, such as changes in revenues and expenses for an organization," says study co-author Ron Goetzel, PhD, research professor of health policy and management, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University. Goetzel is also director of Emory's Institute for Health and Productivity Studies and vice president of consulting and applied research for Thomson Reuters.

"In a similar way, our ROI model can be used to forecast how changes in employee health behavior can affect an organization's future healthcare and productivity-related expenditures," says Goetzel.

The study followed 890 employees enrolled for 12 months in a telephone-coaching program for obesity management. Researchers measured 11 key health risk variables, including nutrition, fitness, smoking (current and former), stress, cholesterol, blood pressure, alcohol abuse, depression, glucose and body weight. At the end of one year, the study found statistically significant reductions in seven health risk factors.

The study demonstrated significant decreases in risk prevalence for poor eating habits (21.3 percent reduction) and poor physical activity (15.1 percent reduction). All of the biometric measures related to overweight and obesity also decreased, including percent overweight or obese (5.8 percent reduction), weight (4.5 pounds reduction), and body mass index (0.9 reduction).

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In addition to Goetzel, study authors included Kristin Baker, MPH, of the University of Georgia, and Douglas Metz of American Specialty Health.

Thomson Reuters conducted the study in conjunction with American Specialty Health.

Reference: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, September 2008

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The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

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