Why Traditional Wellness Solutions Fail

Kayla Reynolds, MS

From step competitions, to weight loss challenges, to cafeteria makeovers, and more, wellness initiatives are picking up traction in the corporate sphere. While these types of efforts may increase motivation, increase activity, improved diets, and even promote modest weight loss short-term, traditional wellness solutions fail. In fact, these one-dimensional attempts to improve employers’ health are not solutions at all. Long-lasting behavior change is hard and there are a number of reasons these initiatives fail to improve the health of employees.

1. They’re designed for people already engaged in their health

While a poor-perceived health status has associated with intention to participate in wellness initiatives, it is not associated with actual participation. Instead, most wellness initiatives are engaging employees that are already moderately healthy, and not those who could really benefit from the programs.

2. They’re “one-size-fits-all”

In an attempt to include as many employees as possible, most in workplace wellness initiatives take a one-size-fits-all approach health. As a result efforts fail to take into account the specific, unique needs of their employees, which are necessary to engage individuals, address their specific needs, and improve health outcomes.

3. They’re don’t use a scientific approach

While the idea of participating redesigning a workplace cafeteria or providing employees with shiny new wearables sounds ideal, most initiatives have no scientific foundation and have yet to be validated. In fact, many studies show that these efforts have little impact on the health of employees.To achieve meaningful behavior change and improve health outcomes, mHealth technology needs to engage users with comprehensive, holistic programs. Most solutions fail to provide a structured path to achieve these goals.

4. They’re not driving to specific outcome

Most wellness initiatives aren’t outcome-driven. Are step challenges meant to increase the activity level? Are weight loss initiatives meant to reduce sick days or health care costs? Are cafeteria makeovers meant to increase fruit and vegetable consumption? Most programs lack a specific goal or desired outcome, and if they do, they are rarely assessed, let alone, measurable.

5. Participants are left on their own

Programs do not equip individuals with the professional support and guidance they need to make long-lasting change and improve their health for good. While wellness initiatives that involve team challenges may provide individuals with additional support and encouragement, these short-term solutions do not provide people with the continuous, 360-degree support they need to make and sustain a lifestyle change.

Although the workplace provides an excellent opportunity that can provide a return on investment, current efforts are failing to achieve this goal. In order to address an increasing sick populations’ health in this setting, employers must offer engaging, personalized, scientifically-proven, and outcome-driven programs that equip individuals with knowledge, tools, and support they need to succeed.