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    Making wellness programs work for your wallet and lifestyle

    By now you’ve probably heard the message loud and clear: Staying well through preventive steps is cheaper, healthier and easier for everyone than waiting until a health condition becomes an issue. From the government to your own employer, many organizations spend millions of dollars every year on wellness programs aimed at supporting individuals’ efforts to stay healthy. These programs can be a great tool if they are easy to use, engaging, and provide reliable, understandable information on wellness.

    Wellness programs aren’t just for those with red flag factors for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure or tobacco use. Rather, wellness programs are beneficial to everyone including otherwise healthy people who may simply be trying to lead a healthier lifestyle by increased exercise, weight loss or managing stress.

    In fact, the concept of “wellness” goes far beyond merely keeping up with your annual physical and taking medications to manage chronic conditions. Wellness encompasses eating right, regularly exercising, avoiding unhealthy activities such as smoking, and being an active participant in your health decision making progress.

    Wellness programs, often provided through employer-sponsored health insurance or through employers themselves, provide participants with information and tools to help avoid illness and injury. But, the path to good health is different for everyone and it is important that programs are not only designed to help the right people at the right time but also to engage people in a personalized, impactful way.

    For example, a wellness offering such as Health Dialog’s WELLNESS Dialog program begins with an innovative Well-Being Assessment to better understand physical and emotional health, capacity for change, work-life satisfaction, and health risk. It then reports on personal strengths and opportunities, offers suggested goals and actions, provides people with the tools they need to realize their own personal lifestyle goals and incorporates fun group activities to engage participants for the long term.

    In order to truly make a difference, a wellness program needs to be relevant to the people using it. Participating in a wellness program can be useful, as long as the program supports not only those who are well and maintaining their current level of health or improving it, but also those who are ill and managing their care.

    If you would like the chance to make a wellness program work for you, here are a few steps and guidelines to help:

    * Find out what your employer offers. Many support wellness programs through their health insurers, but others supplement those plans with specialized programs. Perhaps your employer offers free exercise or stress reduction classes, or offers a stipend for health club membership as part of your benefits. If your employer doesn’t currently offer any kind of wellness program, ask for one – keeping employees healthy is in a company’s best interest.

    * Learn your program’s tools. Most programs offer help lines that you can call and discuss your specific needs and concerns, and receive information on available tools to help you. Your plan administrator may also be able to provide information. Or you can check the program provider’s website to learn more.

    * Discuss your wellness program with your doctor and ask for his feedback on what tools might be of most use to you. Look for tools that address your specific needs, age and lifestyle. For example, if weight management is a concern, your wellness program’s nutritional counseling might be helpful. If you’re looking for ways to become more active, ask if your program offers advice on exercise.

    * Take advantage of incentives. Some programs offer incentives for successful participation in weight loss or smoking cessation programs. These incentives are a great tool for tracking your progress and keeping yourself motivated to achieve your goals.

    You can learn more about wellness programs like Health Dialog’s at or

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