Despite the recent hype about focusing wellness programs on thefinancial, social, and mental well-being of workers, the main goalof corporate wellness initiatives is still improving the physicalhealth of the workforce. And after years of growing popularity, anew survey suggests that many employers have yet to achieve thehoped for results from their wellness programs.

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The poll of 554 benefits professionals conducted by Optum, ahealth benefits consulting firm, found that nearly all employerwellness programs (95 percent) address physical health. It furtherfound that 65 percent of wellness programs address mental health,44 percent address social health, and 37 percent address financialhealth.

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Sadly, most of the HR personnel surveyed do not hold theiremployees’ knowledge of the health care system in high esteem. Only20 percent believe workers know enough about the system tocompetently navigate it.

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But even worse, only 19 percent of benefits professionals saidthat their organization effectively tracks the return on investmentof their wellness program. And while 60 percent say that it isimportant to establish a culture of health in the workplace, only20 percent say their organization has achieved one.

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In general, it does not appear employers believe their workersare very healthy. Only 30 percent of the business leaders surveyedassessed their employees “well-being” as very good, and the ratewas even lower among HR professionals: 17 percent.

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Findings that cast doubt on the ability of employers to trackthe progress of wellness programs appears to affirm criticism ofsuch initiatives made by Al Lewis, a noted wellness skeptic.Lewis has repeatedly argued there is no evidence that wellnessinitiatives save companies money in the long run, a critique thatwellness supporters have responded to by emphasizing the benefitsof wellness programs to workplace culture and productivity.

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There also appears to be some uncertainty about putting wellnessas the top priority among employers. The survey found that only 41percent of HR leaders said that wellness programs were an importantcomponent of the company health plan. Among business executives,only a third said the same. Still, 28 percent of employers surveyedsaid they are increasing their wellness budgets thisyear.

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