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Health and wellness: the shift from managing illness to promoting health.


Despite an acknowledged lack of evidence of investment payoff, health plan initiatives to promote health and wellness are now commonplace, according to findings from the Center for Studying Health System Change's (HSC) 2007 site visits to 12 nationally representative metropolitan communities. Much of the impetus has come from employers--primarily large employers--that are incorporating health and wellness activities into benefit designs that place more responsibility on employees for health care decisions and costs. Health plans now offer a range of health and wellness activities, including traditional worksite health fairs, screenings and educational seminars; access to behavior modification programs, such as weight management and smoking cessation; and online tools, including health risk assessments. Engaging enrollees in these activities, however, is challenging because participation typically is voluntary. Another barrier is employee privacy concerns. More health plans and employers are turning to financial incentives to secure greater participation. Ultimately, however, the credibility of health and wellness activities as mechanisms to improve health and contain costs is dependent on evidence demonstrating their clinical and financial effectiveness, as well as consumers' acceptance and validation of their legitimacy.

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