What Does the RAND Report on Workplace Wellness Programs Really Say?

Speculation was running rampant on the web and the blogosphere about the bad news that the Rand Report was going to be for the industry.

Only problem was: Those who were talking hadn´t read it. And those who had read it were not talking.

But here it is. Please, read the COMPLETE Final Report, from RAND Corp, on Workplace Wellness Programs Study.

And what did we find after a good read? Apparently, the old adage is true: Reading is fundamental.

May we quote?

“In an analysis of the CCA database, when comparing wellness program participants to statistically matched nonparticipants, we find statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvements in exercise frequency, smoking behavior, and weight control, but not cholesterol control. Those improvements are sustainable over an observation period of four years, and our simulation analyses point to cumulative effects with ongoing program participation.” Page XVII, for the inquisitive minds. This point is of critical importance as it speaks to the importance of workplace wellness programs to help contain the epidemic of lifestyle-related diseases in the U.S. (RAND report, p. xxvi)

Then, there is this other morsel of wisdom:

“The published literature, the results presented here, and our case studies corroborate the finding of positive effects of worksite wellness programs on health-related behavior and health risks among program participants.” Page XVIII

Please, CCA will issue a more complete analysis and responses to any of your questions and inquiries, now that we actually know what we are discussing… You know, we are sticklers for full picture, well-informed statements.

But we want to give our readers a nice preview of some of the most relevant points of the report. And, unlike others, we are actually giving you chapter and verse…and a link to the actual report, so you can make sure we are quoting correctly.

  • Programs with a weight management component can be credited with a positive impact on weight over time. Results show a differential change of about 1 pound per year sustained for the current year of participation and two years thereafter, in a population of 104,920 employees. (RAND report, p. 48) Compared to this: the average adult gains between 5 and 15 lbs. per year after age 40.
  • Cholesterol improved for participants and nonparticipants alike. (RAND report, p. 52) Increased use in statins among the full population can partly explain the lack of program effect.
  • Even with a small sample size (N=746), smoking cessation programs were found to have a significant sustainable effect for 1-2 years after the year of participation. “One year of program participation decreases the smoking rate of participating smokers by nearly 30% in the first year compared to nonparticipating smokers.” (RAND report, pp. 45-46)
    • Program participation is associated with a trend toward lower health care costs, while those changes are not statistically significant. Over a five year span, the cumulative simulated effect of wellness program participation on total health care costs per health plan member per month shows a curve that flattens for participants and continues on an upward trajectory for nonparticipants. This lower cost trend is driven by reduction in hospital inpatient cost of approximately $40 per member per month. (RAND report, pp. 56-57)
  • Corresponding to these cost reduction trends are declines in inpatient admissions and emergency department visits, compared with an increase or slight decrease for the nonparticipant comparison group. (RAND report, p. 57)
  • While the report’s estimates of wellness program effects on health care cost are lower than results reported in the literature, the RAND research sought to isolate the effect of lifestyle management interventions as opposed to the effect of an employer’s overall approach to health and wellness. (RAND report, p. xxvi) Even with a program that is cost neutral, positive impact on health risk, i.e. healthier employees, is a good result without added cost.

Read the Final Report, from RAND Corp, on Workplace Wellness Programs Study

View the presentation of Wellness Program Study Final Briefing

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