Salt Lake Wellness Program Boosts Employee Health and County Purse

by: Nichole Gunn December 7, 2010

A new workplace-wellness study concludes that Salt Lake County’s employee wellness program, Healthy Lifestyles, is a bonus for the county purse. As with a number of companies utilizing the same strategies, for every dollar spent on promoting a healthy lifestyle, the county has saved in excess of three dollars in healthcare costs.

The Salt Lake Tribune explained that the wellness program, in effect since 1988, affords incentives to employees who take care of themselves. The program includes “health screenings, fitness incentives and nutrition advice – the program even encourages participants to rent Nintendo Wii games to increase their exercise.”

Director of Community Health for the Salt Lake Valley Health Department Dan Kinnersley intends to expand the wellness program which serves about two-thirds of the county’s employees, almost 2,200 employees.

Since women participants in the program outnumber the men, about 2-to-1, Kinnersley’s recruiting efforts will target male employees. He also plans on boosting the existing obesity training, and offering help in self-diagnosis – in regard to deciding which health issues require medical attention and which don’t.

“During the period of 2004 to 2008, employees who joined the program had average medical claims of $399 – far less than the $547 average of employees who did not participate.” The county is achieving a 3-to-1 ROI, saving $3.4 million in healthcare costs in the four year period.

“We have shown that it works,” Kinnersley said. “It is an affirmation that what we do is beneficial to the county work force.”