Creating a Health Promotion Program.

As businesses today continue to compete in the global economy, cost containment strategies will be increasingly important. Controlling the rising cost of staff member ill health is becoming a priority for corporate leaders.

The emerging corporate culture in the USA  is one which has an staff member population centered in health, wellness and safety.

Developing a corporate strategy for wellness and disability management makes good organization sense.  The following eight-step process ensures a strategic, integrated, needs-driven and results-oriented approach.

The following process works best in organizations with strong leadership and a long-term commitment to employee health.

1. Identify Your Health Promotion Program Champion

This individuals should be a leader in your corporation and a strong advocate of health. Usually this is a personal who actively pursues his or her own personal quest for optimal health.

The wellness program champion must’ve the resources and authority to drive the program forward.  The program champion’s key role is to ensure the strategic plan for health is aligned with the organization’s corporation objectives, strategic focus and organizational values.

For example when the organization promotes that “our strength is our people ” the health promotion program must demonstrate how programs will nurture and protect that valuable resource.

2. Form Your Health Promotion Strategy Team

The Health Promotion Strategy Team ought to include decision makers and stakeholders from areas of the company that can influence health and the corporation’s bottom line.

These areas might include; finance, HR, training and development, health services, compensation and benefits, worker assistance services (EAP), advertising and marketing, facilities, safety and health, rehabilitation, cafeteria or food services and the union. A team of six to eight representatives is advised.

The role of the Strategy Team is to create and implement the strategic plan, look for opportunities to promote health, ensure the wellness program is integrated into key areas of the company, streamline efforts, maximize company resources and wellness program evaluation.

3. Complete an Organizational Health Audit

The purpose of an Organizational Health Audit is to evaluate your existing wellness programs and services, physical environment and policies and procedures that support health.

It’s also crucial that you look at your organizational culture or “how things are done” around the organization.

Members of the Strategy Team complete the Audit independently and then meet to discuss their analysis. During the analysis process, health issues and opportunities are discussed in preparation for the development of the strategic plan.

4. Analyze Your Corporation’s Cost Pressures

Cost pressures are identified by assessing  a number of areas including; benefit costs, Worksite Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) claims, drug usage, type of paramedic claims, absenteeism data and employee assistance program utilization.

This process assists to target areas that may be positively impacted by a health promotion program and to provide a baseline for evaluating  change.

5. Conduct a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) or Employee Needs and Interest Survey

The next step is to determine your staff member’s health risks, interests and readiness to change. A confidential health risk assessment can accomplish many goals.

It provides a baseline from which to measure personal lifestyle changes, provides workers with relevant medical information, motivates workers to take charge of their health and assists in wellness program planning.

Most health risk appraisals provide individual reports and a corporate report identifying high-risk areas in the corporation.

Many businesses prefer to administer personalized needs and interest survey to evaluate employee needs.  The advantage of this approach is that the organization is able to gather information on the employees’ perceived wellness program needs and interests.

This information can be incorporated into the strategic plan. Administering a recent survey also has the added benefit of fostering a sense of worker ownership to the wellness program.

6. Develop Your Strategic Plan for Wellness

The strategic plan should incorporate information accumulated from the Organizational Health Audit, your company’s cost pressures, and health risk appraisal data or staff member survey results.

The strategic plan should include your wellness program mission, three or four goals and a few wellness programs under each objective.  The strategic plan provides a framework to encourage, support and evaluate “best health practices.”

It’s also important that the plan align itself with the vision, goals and goals of the business.

The sample strategic plan that follows was created for blue jeans maker Levi Strauss and Co. (Canada) Inc. Levi Strauss and Co.’s mission statement and aspirations (how workers interact with each other in a company environment) guided the development of the plan.

Levi Strauss and Co.’s aspirations include the following statement –  Above all, we want satisfaction from accomplishments and friendships, balanced personal and expert lives, and to have fun in our endeavors.

The wellness program plan included a number of components to ensure that it embraced this statement including the following –

1. A vision statement, which tied in with the organization’s aspirations.

2.  An incentive system to encourage and reward the accomplishment of healthful milestones.

3. A recognition system to applaud success.

4. Friendly competitions between Levi Strauss and Co. locations to ensure a fun environment.

5. Opportunities to participate in small group educational wellness programs to foster team support.

6. Initiation of support groups for employees completing health promotion programs (i.e. use of tobacco control support group).

7. Programs dealing with work and family balance.

Other information that was assessed and used to develop the plan included –

1. Company demographics

2. Focus groups

3. Cultural audit

4. Top drug report

5. employee assistance program utilization

6. Staff Member benefit services report

7. Health and dental claims

8. Operational performance summaries

9. Health risk appraisals

7. Put together a Business Case to Support Your Plan

Your business case for wellness provides the necessary details for approval at the upper-level management level.  The business case includes –

1.  The Strategic Plan for Health

2. A proposed wellness program budget

3. Marketing strategies

4. Program leadership options

5.  An implementation plan

6. Examination methodology.

In presenting the strategic plan it’s imperative that you highlight how the plan aligns itself with the strategic direction of the business.

The wellness program budget should include educational resources, marketing costs, rewards and incentives, leadership costs and supplies.

Advertising and Marketing strategies should address how the wellness program will be promoted and rolled out to various groups within the company i.e. decentralized locations, high risk workforce, older workforce.

Program leadership should address how volunteers will be used, internal resources  and whether consultants have been proposed. All play an equally important role in the implementation of your wellness program.

The health promotion program implementation plan should incorporate the following types of programs that help create awareness of positive health practices, assist staff members in making lifestyle changes and programs, which support long-term change.

Awareness wellness programs develop an awareness of the importance of healthful lifestyle practices and motivate workforce to take the next step. Examples of awareness wellness programs include posting educational posters, newsletter articles and brown bagger seminars.

Lifestyle change health promotion programs are more robust and longer in duration. They’re designed to assist employees in changing behavior. Examples of lifestyle change health promotion programs are nutrition education programs, stress management programs, back care classes and use of tobacco control programs.

A supportive corporate environment encompasses everything from corporate policies and procedures, the physical environment and creating a corporate culture that supports good health practices. Follow-up sessions and support groups for personnel that have completed 6-10 week health promotion programs also provide a supportive environment for long-term change.

Analyzing the effectiveness of wellness is ongoing. A formal investigation should be conducted yearly and may include; re-administering steps three to five, wellness program participation statistics and a year end survey to revisit “soft” issues such as morale, wellness program satisfaction and future wellness program direction.

8. Solicit Input and Communicate Your Plan

Staff Member input is critical to the long-term success of your health promotion program.  An Staff Member Advisory Committee ought to be formed to roll out the plan. Another key responsibility of this team is to solicit feedback from all levels of the company to ensure buy-in.

Front line Manager’s Information Sessions and focus groups are also important. This group needs to buy-in to the notion that they play a key role in supporting positive health practices.

Regular meetings are recommended with front line managers to receive ongoing input, address issues and orient new managers.


The World Health Corporation’s definition of health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellness and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.”

In order for us to create healthful worksites, wellness programs need to have have a wellness program champion, have worker ownership, be senior management supported, results driven and strategically aligned with the overall organization goals of the organization.

Wellness program that embrace these qualities will have a positive impact on an corporation’s bottom line. Canadian research points to many case studies where on-site wellness programs have resulted in decreased absenteeism, lower claims and increased productivity.

Organizations that have embraced wellness as part of “how they do business” have one thing in common. They demonstrate a commitment to their most valuable resource ?.” their individuals .

They understand the increased pressures associated with downsized corporations, a rapidly changing worksite, an aging work force and the challenge of balancing work and family obligations.  And they share a common belief that healthful workforce are happier, absent less and more productive.

References –

Design of Health Promotion Programs by Michael P. O’Donnell. 1995. Published by the American Journal of Wellness.

Pro Fit-ability by Veronica Marsden. Group Healthcare Management. May 1997.

Meeting Expectations by Laura Mensch. Staff Member Health and Productivity. August 1999

7 Steps to Wellness by Daphne Woolf and Veronica Marsden. Group Health Care Management. February 1996.

Published in the Journal of Wellness for Northern Ireland, Issue 9, March 2000

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