By Saeju Jeong
SPECIAL TO THE NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Washington residents only have a few more days to take advantage of little-known wellness programs that essentially pay consumers to get healthier.
These wellness programs cover the cost of gym memberships, pay for weight loss and smoking cessation programs, and in many cases cover stress-management programs.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, roughly 70 percent of U.S. employers provide wellness programs, but they are rarely used. A Harvard Business Review survey found 69 percent of consumers don’t even know these free health-related programs are available.
These wellness programs are especially helpful for Asian Americans. The Centers for Disease Control says obesity rates among Asian Americans in the Pacific Northwest continues to climb more than any other racial group. Asian American children and adolescents are particularly at risk.
According to a study conducted by the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, about 20 percent of Asian American children are overweight. Additionally, Asian children born in the United States are at a higher risk for developing obesity and related complications.
Ask your employer
As the CEO and co-founder of Noom, a healthtech startup, I’ve seen how wellness programs are bought and sold in the free market. Insurance brokers rarely take the time to explain their benefits to Human Resources (HR) companies. Likewise, most HR executives don’t educate their employees on their benefits. It’s always up to the employees to figure out which is the best health plan for their families.
If losing weight is a part of your 2018 resolution, you still have time. Many private insurance plans provide wellness programs that allow you to enroll throughout the month of January.
Even better, many employers will pay their employees to complete weight loss programs.
It’s important to ask your HR department which wellness programs are available to you. If you want to lose weight in the new year, look specifically for weight loss programs that are available under your insurance plan. And under your insurance options, review the benefits that are offered under your wellness programs.
Why wellness programs?
Healthier employees save insurance companies money. Consumers with chronic conditions, like diabetes, cost companies an additional $10,000 a year in expenses. Both employers and insurance companies want employees to take advantage of these health programs. It’s a smart business decision.
The Society for HR Management recently conducted a study that explored the return on investment (ROI) for wellness programs. Every $1 invested in overall wellness efforts brings a return on investment of $1.50. When the investment targets programs for chronic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity, the ROI increases to $3.80.
In addition to saving money, employers have seen reductions in employee absenteeism, staff turnover, employee stress, and an increase in productivity.
Saeju Jeong is the CEO and co-founder of Noom — a leader in mobile health coaching that combines technology with the empathy of real human coaches to deliver successful behavior change at scale.