Thursday, June 28, 2012

Web of Wellness

Rising healthcare expenses is a key issue plaguing area employers and employees alike. These rising expenses attributed to increasing healthcare costs and declining employee wellness (often caused by poor lifestyle choices) are impacting corporate competitiveness and profitability; as well as leading to reduced employee motivation and morale as these increasing costs are passed on to the employees.

Traditionally, individual employers have tried to deal with this issue by working with providers to reduce costs; and encouraging employees to lead healthier lifestyles.

A team of us looked at this issue as part of coursework at the Simon School of the University of Rochester.

Along with other ideas our team outlined an integrative approach leveraging interconnected players to enhance value by creating a “Web of Wellness”.

Here's what we see: Employers like Univ. of Rochester, Xerox, Paychex etc. want to reduce healthcare expenses. Local retailers like Wegmans, Tops, Walmart etc. want to increase sales of healthy options. Local gyms and health clubs like Midtown, RAC, Planet Fitness etc. want to boost membership. Also, individuals want to indulge in healthy lifestyle choices but often see no tangible rewards or are driven away by the high costs. What is missing is a framework, a "web" which brings these disparate players together and drives increased value for each of them.

And here’s what we think needs to happen: local associations like Greater Rochester Enterprise , Rochester Business Alliance etc. would need to step in. Pull all the players together to create a "Web of Wellness". Employees get a “Web of Wellness” card from their employers and earn points for using the gym (e.g. 100 points for every hour on the treadmill) or for achieving tangible health gains (e.g. 1000 points for every pound of weight loss) which can be redeemed for cash discounts on healthy products at local retailers (e.g. 500 points gets you $5 off your next purchase of healthy snacks) . Similarly buying healthy products at the stores could lead to points which could be redeemed towards classes at the local gym.

A lot of innovative deal-making will be required amongst all the players to come up with a workable solution but let’s get the conversation started. Perhaps Rochester’s “Web of Wellness” will become a model for the entire nation!

Published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle as : Creating a 'web of wellness' in Rochester

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