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wellness digest—week of february 7

February 14, 2011

in wellness digest

a roundup of last week’s articles that informed, inspired, intrigued or irritated.

1. annual wellness study finds significant jump in incentive dollars as employers report improved employee participation

fidelity investments and the national business group on health explored trends in employee wellness incentives. this study is a follow-up to one they conducted in 2009. on the rise? the size of incentives, which have jumped to $460 from $230, on average. also jumping? the number of companies offering incentives: 62%, up from 57%. lagging behind are negative incentives, with only 12% of companies wielding the stick.

“According to the study, employers utilized several different types of incentives in 2010 to encourage employees to participate in health improvement programs. These included offering cash and gift cards and making additional contributions to health savings accounts, along with more punitive efforts such as reducing employer contributions to health plans if employees didn’t engage in any programs. The incentives provided by employers averaged a total of $430 per employee in 2010, which was a 65% increase from $260 in 2009.”

note: additional reporting with links to related commentary can be found in this WSJ article.

2. hospitals shift smoking bans to smoker bans

more and more hospitals are kicking the habit of hiring tobacco users.

“This shift — from smoke-free to smoker-free workplaces — has prompted sharp debate, even among anti-tobacco groups, over whether the policies establish a troubling precedent of employers intruding into private lives to ban a habit that is legal.”

3. vermont gov. proposes single-payer health plan

NPR and kaiser health news filed this report on vermont governor peter shumlin’s proposed bill to replace private insurance with a publicly funded pool—for vermont residents only.

“The federal health law allows states such as Vermont to request waivers to opt out of many of its requirements starting in 2017, so long as they present an alternative that would achieve the same goals—broader health coverage for more people—with equal or greater success.”

4. partnership is key to a successful farm market

farmers markets are becoming a new ticket to health, with doctors writing prescriptions to them, food stamps being recognized by them and businesses partnering with them.

“In the spring of 2010, SHPS executives, looking for ways to make healthy lifestyle choices easier for their employees, worked with Louisville Farm to Table to establish farmers markets at two SHPS work sites.

“The average supermarket carries 50,000 items and many of those are highly processed foods, low in nutrients, high in added fat or sugar. Convenient access to fresh farm food can help replace less nutritious food with delicious, healthy options. Employers can join with schools, families and others to begin turning harmful eating habits into healthy ones.”

5. facebook firing case is settled

this case has to be of interest to anyone involved in HR and employee communication.

“The case had become a test of how much latitude employees may have when posting comments about work matters from their home computers on social media sites such as Facebook.

“Under the terms of the settlement approved by the NLRB’s Hartford, Conn., Regional Director Jonathan Kreisberg, the company agreed to revise its rules. The company agreed not to discipline or discharge employees for engaging in discussions about wages and other work issues when not on the job, the NLRB said.”

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