Why Start a Company Wellness Program?

Wellness programs help control costs
An investment in your employees' health may lower health care costs or slow the increase in providing that important benefit. In fact, employees with more risk factors, including being overweight, smoking and having diabetes, cost more to insure and paid more for health care than people with fewer risk factors. An employee wellness program can raise awareness so employees with fewer risk factors remain in a lower-cost group. A program also can encourage employees with health risk factors to make lifestyle changes, to seek help for mental health programs and to improve their quality of life and lower costs. The payoff in dollars as well as in quality of life can have a big impact on your company’s bottom line. The average Cost/Benefit ratio for wellness programs based on a summary of 28 articles was $3.48 saved per $1 invested (Aldana, 2001).

Increase productivity
Healthier employees are more productive. This has been demonstrated in factory settings and in office environments in which workers with workplace wellness initiatives miss less work. Presenteeism, in which employees are physically present on the job but are not at their most productive or effective, is reduced in workplaces that have wellness programs.

Healthier employees miss less work. Companies that support wellness and healthy decisions have a greater percentage of employees at work every day. Because health frequently carries over into better family choices, your employees may miss less work caring for ill family members as well. The cost savings of providing a wellness program can be measured against reduced overtime to cover absent employees and other aspects of absenteeism.

Improve morale and enhance image for the organization
A company that cares about its employees' health is often seen as a better place to work. Thosecompanies save money by retaining workers who appreciate the benefit of a wellness program and they can attract new employees in a competitive market.

Still not convinced?
The cost to employers of obesity-related health problems in 2003 was $13 billion per year, including $8 billion in medical claims, $2.4 billion in paid sick leave, $1.8 billion in life insurance, and almost $1 billion in disability insurance. In addition, an estimated 39 million workdays are lost to obesity-related illnesses each year (DHHS 2004).

Here are three quick statistics and the corresponding data on the Wisconsin adult workforce.

  • Illness and injury associated with an unhealthy lifestyle or modifiable risk factors is reported to account for 25 percent of employee health care expenditure (Anderson, 2000)

  • Medical costs attributed to obesity and overweight are estimated to be annually $395 (36 percent) higher than those for normal weight (Strum, 2002).

  • Obese employees are nearly 75 percent more likely to experience high rates of absenteeism (seven or more absences during a six-month period) than normal weight employees (Tucker, 1998).

Percent of Adults with Lifestyle Health Risk Factors 

Risk Factor

State of Wisconsin

Obese: Body Mass Index (BMI) ≥30


Overweight (includes obese)(BMI ≥ 25)




Current smoker


High blood pressure *


High cholesterol *


Lack of physical activity (Lack of exercise) *


Less than 5 servings of fruits or vegetables *


Source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) 2006 and 2005*

The reality is that employers are already “paying for” health related issues. On average a company can expect to pay an estimated $10,000 per year for things such as:

  • Medical benefits

  • Short & long term disability

  • Workers compensation

  • Disease Management

  • Absence Management

  • Staff Recruitment and training

  • Human Resources

Many of the risk factors for chronic diseases are both preventable and modifiable.


Aldana, SG. Financial impact of health promotion programs: a comprehensive review of the literature. American Journal of Health Promotion 2001 May-Jun;15(5):296-320.

Anderson. D.R., Whitmer, R.W., Goetzel, R.Z., Ozminkowski, R.J., Dunn, R.L., Wasserman, J. (2000). The relationship between modifiable health risks and health care expenditures: A group-level analysis of the HERO database. American Journal of Health Promotion, 2000 Sep-Oct;15(1):45-52.

Cowan, C. A., McDonnell, P. A., Levit, K. R. and Zezza, M. A. (2002, Spring) Burden of health care costs: businesses, households, and governments. 1987 – 2000. Health Care Financing Review, 23(3), 131-159.

DHHS September 2003 Report: “Prevention Makes Common Cents”.

Cite from: Thompson D, Edelsberg J, Kinsey KL, Oster G. Estimated economic costs of obesity to U.S. business. American Journal of Health Promotion. 1998; 13(2):120-127.

Strum, R. (2002). The effects of obesity, smoking, and drinking on medical problems and costs. Health Affairs, 12(2), 245-253.

Tucker, L.A., Friedman, G.M. (1998). Obesity and absenteeism: an epidemiologic study of 10,285 employed adults. American Journal of Health Promotion. 12(3):202-207.


The information provided above in this overview section was contributed by:

Department of Health and Family Services, Division of Public Health, Nutrition and Physical Activity Program, Wisconsin Partnership for Activity and Nutrition. Wisconsin Worksite Resource Kit to Prevent Obesity and Related Chronic Diseases. September 2007. 


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