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  • Writer's pictureWellness Workdays

Why Worry About Your Healthy Population?

While the improvement of employee health and wellness outcomes is a driving factor for most corporate wellness programs, it is not typically the main reason for an employer to subscribe. More often, wellness programs are created to decrease overall medical spending and increase productivity. Higher health-risk employees are more likely to accumulate a higher medical spend than a healthy, low-risk employee. As a result, many employers choose to focus their wellness effort (and dollars) on managing the high-risk population. These high-risk employees are considered ‘low hanging fruit’ and are thus targeted by wellness initiatives.

Research shows that a comprehensive wellness program that helps to mitigate disease progression in high-risk employees and maintains the health of low-risk employees is more effective in reducing overall medical costs. If wellness initiatives are left unchecked, the “natural flow” of risk—and therefore cost—inevitably tends to increase over time. In fact, these low- and medium-risk employees may begin to produce increased medical spending overtime at an even higher rate. One study showed that after one year of no wellness intervention, the medical cost of low-risk employees increased by nearly 8%, whereas the higher-risk employees increased by just 1%.

An effective wellness program will work to keep the healthy population healthy and make positive improvements in the higher-risk population. The bottom line is that this targeted approach could mean a difference of tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars per year spent on medical costs.

In addition to preventing the progression of employees from low- to high-risk, a comprehensive wellness program that targets the entire population shows employees that their employer cares for and respects their health. When employees feel that their health and wellness are being acknowledged, it leads to improved morale, productivity, and job satisfaction. Heightened job satisfaction can lead to increased worker retention and job attractiveness to potential employees in a competitive job market.

A typical comprehensive wellness program should include assessment and strategy, along with implementation of risk-based interventions, individualized health education, biometric screenings, health risk assessments, and thorough evaluation. Traditionally, higher-risk employees participate in wellness programs and seek health information more often because the content is typically more relevant to them. These employees have a greater potential to lower their risks compared to the healthier employees who may not participate as often. To increase participation for low-risk employees, the intention should be to target their needs and interests to maintain their health. By incorporating key factors to success such as an individualized health approach and participation-based incentives, overall employee motivation and satisfaction will increase.

It is important to consider the entire employee population when designing a wellness program, including both low- and high-risk employees. The difference in cost-savings and employee satisfaction is a win for all. Contact us to learn more about our strategic approach that can help keep your employees healthy.


  1. Musich, S. A., Adams, L., & Edington, D. W. (2000). Effectiveness of health promotion programs in moderating medical costs in the USA. Health Promotion International, 15(1), 5-15.

  2. Edington, D. W. (2001). Emerging research: a view from one research center. American Journal of Health Promotion, 15(5), 341-349.

  3. Edington, D. W., & Pitts, J. (2016). Shared values, shared results. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Edington Associates.

  4. Edington, D. W. (2009). Zero trends: Health as a serious economic strategy. UM-HMRC.

  5. Jones, D., Molitor, D., & Reif, J. (2019) What do Workplace Wellness Programs do? Evidence from the Illinois Workplace Wellness Study, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 134(4), 1747–1791,

  6. Musich, S., McCalister, T., Wang, S., & Hawkins, K. (2015). An Evaluation of the Well at Dell Health Management Program: Health Risk Change and Financial Return on Investment. American Journal of Health Promotion. 29(3), 147-157.

  7. Ott-Holland, C. J., Shepherd, W. J., & Ryan, A. M. (2017, September 4). Examining Wellness Programs Over Time: Predicting Participation and Workplace Outcomes. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Advance online publication.



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