Jackson School System Cuts Wellness Program Despite Realized Benefits

by: Nichole Gunn December 21, 2010

With the economic climate lingering, many businesses, including schools, are feeling the effects. When push comes to shove in budgeting strategies, one of the first areas to be cut is incentive programs.

This is what happened in the Jackson, Michigan, public school system. Implementing a wellness program two years ago, they found it necessary to dismiss it this year in efforts to tighten their budget.

The problem the school system is now encountering is that the program actually improved employee health and benefited the bottom line, allowing the school system to save thousands of dollars. This is causing the powers that be to rethink their strategy.

The program offered “wellness coaches who worked one-on-one with school employees, reduced the percentage of members deemed at risk for heart disease.” Another benefit to the program included an increase in the number of staff who maintained a healthy diet. All the positive results proved its worth.

Along with this, the employees within the Jackson public school system appreciated the health incentive; it enhanced employee health and motivation, thereby making work a happy place to be. With the loss of the wellness program, a number of workers are finding it difficult to maintain the needed self-policing and fortitude to continue the healthy lifestyle the program initiated.

Although some of the participating employees, of their own initiative, created free wellness activities, others miss the long-term benefits the school program offered.

It is proven, through various studies that “for every $1 spent on a wellness program there are $3.14 in savings over the long term,” noted program spokesman Gary Fralick. Unfortunately, the results of the financial savings can take five to ten years to be realized. This doesn’t do much for today’s financial crunch and the challenge that needs to be met now.