wellness digest — week of march 28

April 4, 2011

in wellness digest

a recap of last week’s news that captured my interest:

1. creating a culture of worksite health and wellness

this human resource executive article spells out dee edington’s philosophy on building a workplace wellness culture, from the perspective of what it entails and what it delivers.

“In fact, to achieve a 50-percent HRA completion rate, employers with a low level of commitment and communications needed an average incentive value of approximately $120, whereas employers with a high level of commitment and communications only needed approximately $40.”

2. innovations in wellness

another human resource executive article, this one presents its first roundup of companies that are creatively improving workplace wellness in one of six categories. the roundup, actually a number of complementary articles, includes mentions and some deeper profiles of SAS, limeade, redbrick health, alere health and my favorite, the public/private partnerships.

“We ultimately decided to profile companies in six categories: Metrics, Public/Private Initiatives, Global Wellness, Social Networks, Communication and ‘Whole Person’—that is, wellness programs that do an effective job of addressing the non-physical aspects of good health. In the following pages, you’ll read about some companies we think are good examples of where one of our selected areas of innovation is working already.”

3. newpublichealth community forum

the robert wood johnson foundation launched the newpublichealth community forum this week, along with the announcement of the 2011 county health rankings.

“We all know that solving the nation’s health crisis is going to take more than improvements to health care. If we’re going to decrease costs and improve health, we need to identify new ways to prevent disease and health crises where they begin—in our communities.

“Public health experts are being asked to lead the way—to uncover the answers, to brainstorm with businesses and communities, to innovate, to be more effective, and to accomplish more with less. In many ways, it’s going to take a NewPublicHealth to answer the challenge, which is why we launched this community.”

4. ‘gamifying’ the system to create better behavior

gamification was the buzzword at south by southwest this year. i heard aza raskin and seth priebatsch persuasively speak about how we can use game principles to change behavior. in this article, NPR explores how game principles, namely positive reinforcement for desired actions, wins out over negative.

“Instead of being structured around punishment and negativity, he says, the speed-camera lottery is ‘all about positive reinforcement.’ If you drive the speed limit, or under it, you may win some money.

“‘And that positive incentive to create better behavior,’ he says, ‘is a core tenet of games.’”

5. when will educators get serious about gaming?

another perspective on games and the slow acceptance of them. this is part of a harvard business review series on educational innovation and technology, but i think the ideas are relevant to our wellness work, too.

“Is it that gaming, by its very name, cannot be taken seriously by the wider education community, or indeed the wider community in general? Is it possible that gaming is only now starting to reach a level of ‘maturity’ and sophistication from an affordable technology perspective, that it can finally provide what might be to be ‘serious opportunities for learning’? Or is it something that might be seen as driving what could be called subversive pedagogy? Surely if the latter is the case, then we are never going to see any widespread adoption of game-based learning in our schools without a comprehensive strategy that addresses that challenge. Is it possible that many of the innovations that have driven changes within our schools have only succeeded because they have been incremental, while gaming is perceived, at least in Papert’s model, to be a fundamental shift? In the educational world—as in business—fundamental shifts can be threatening to the status quo, leading to pushback and relegating them to token or boutique adoption.”

6. wholesome wave

kaiser permanente is a role model in many ways. here’s one example. they’ve substituted food for the at-risk for cash in their employees’ pockets when their employees complete a health risk assessment. that simple switch caused their assessment completion rates to jump 400%, per michelle mancuso, and helped fund a $600,000 grant to wholesome wave, an organization dedicated to increasing access to healthy foods. i’m not surprised. to feel you’re improving your own well-being while doing the same for others? that’s a powerful motivator.

Funding for the grant is a result of Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente’s employee wellness program, Healthy Workforce, through which the nonprofit organization contributed $50 for each employee who took a health risk assessment. Almost 23,000 Kaiser Permanente employees participated in the program. The organization raised $1.2 million overall, which is being distributed to Wholesome Wave and the Washington D.C.-based National Assembly for School-Based Health Care.


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