At the start of each year, millions of Americans make resolutions to lose weight, stop smoking or live a healthier lifestyle. As January comes and goes, these resolutions fade and old habits prevail. National health care costs have risen to well over $1 trillion a year, due in part to Americans' unhealthy habits. According to a recent study by Purdue University, 74 percent of American health care costs are due to lifestyle-related behaviors and are, therefore, preventable. In an effort to reduce long-term costs, many organizations are searching for ways to inspire employees to lead healthier lifestyles, and wellness programs can be a way to do just that.

Often perceived as a cure-all for rising costs, wellness programs have grown in popularity and are becoming commonplace in many businesses. A recent report issued by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that wellness programs can result in a three-to-one return on investment. While these programs are a valuable tool, the key to ensuring success and ROI is the strategy behind the nuts and bolts of a wellness plan.

The ultimate goal of any wellness program is to lower the cost of employee benefits with sustained improvements in workers' health. Behavior change is the key factor in addressing rising costs, as the vast majority of American health care costs are a result of lifestyle decisions.

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