May 7, 2001
Senate proposes funds to encourage workplace wellness programs
The Senate majority has proposed a $1 million state pilot program to encourage employers to invest in health screening and wellness education programs at worksites.
"Demand for health-care services in New York, as well as health insurance premiums, are skyrocketing," Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said at a press conference announcing the "New York Wellness Works" proposal. He was joined at the conference by Daniel B. Walsh, president/CEO of The Business Council.
"New York Wellness Works will be a partnership between the state and employers to encourage health screening and education on a voluntary basis for employees," said Senator Mary Lou Rath (R-Erie County), co-chair of the Senate Task Force on Health and Wellness. "It would be one of the first programs of its type to measure results and allow for evolving improvements."
How the program would work: Under the proposed program, employers could apply for grants to develop and implement health promotion and disease prevention initiatives. These programs could include specific screening procedures, education, and health incentives in many areas, including: nutrition; smoking cessation; alcohol use; blood pressure and heart disease; early detection and prevention of breast, cervical, and prostate cancer; and early detection and prevention of osteoporosis.
The program would be implemented through the state Health Department.
Data collected from program participants would be used to quantify program results in an annual evaluation of the program, a Senate press release said.
The Health Department would be directed to hold statewide "best-practices conferences" to further share the insights on experiences under the program with employers, employees, health professionals, and the public.
Benefits of wellness programs: Walsh noted that The Business Council and many of its members have workplace wellness programs because they can benefit both employers and employees.
Benefits that can be offered under such programs can include free on-site flu shots, discounts on health-club membership or fitness equipment, and access to information on wellness, health, nutrition, healthy lifestyles, stress management, and so on.
Employers that offer such programs report such benefits as reduced absenteeism, higher morale, high productivity, and reduced costs of employee health insurance and workers' compensation, Walsh noted.
For example, a DuPont Corporation study has estimated that DuPont gets a $2 return for every $1 spent in benefits such as reduced absenteeism and lower medical costs, he said.
New York State corporate leaders that have active workplace wellness programs include Kodak, IBM, Praxair, GE, and Fisher Price.