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Create a Wellness Program

Studies of the average return on investment from worksite wellness programs highlight the wide variability in quality between different programs. An effective program should address multiple health behaviors, engage staff and leadership, and establish a foundation for building and sustaining wellness efforts. The following six-step process will help organizations do wellness the right way and achieve desired outcomes.

Step One: Designate a senior agency executive to lead your agency’s wellness initiative

Obtaining upper management buy-in is essential to launch an effective program. Employees must understand that management is supportive of the wellness initiative. Your executive leader will need to:

  • Designate an agency wellness coordinator
  • Ensure that senior and middle management are informed of the benefits and supportive of the wellness program
  • Ensure that appropriate policies are in place to support the program
  • Ensure that organizational resources and staff time are available for planning and implementation

Step Two: Establish a Wellness Committee

Wellness committees serve as essential infrastructure for the wellness program. They share the work load of building and sustaining wellness efforts so that success won’t depend on the passion of one or two individuals. It is important that this team recruit representatives from different departments as well as members with key skills (meeting facilitation, marketing, evaluation, etc.).

 Responsibilities:

  • Engage employees to ensure programming reflects demand and increases participation
  • Develop a wellness plan to guide all activities
  • Develop/Enhance wellness policies and implement changes to the work environment to improve employee health
  • Work with managers, benefit coordinators, etc., in the design, implementation, and evaluation of the program.

Step Three: Conduct an agency-wide survey

 Conducting an employee survey provides key information for informing wellness efforts, and wellness staff should consider carefully how best to collect different types of data. Information on what ideas or benefits interest employees will help ensure activities meet demand. Baseline data on the behaviors, attitudes, or health indicators the program seeks to change are equally important for documenting the program’s impact and measuring outcomes months or years later. These different purposes require different types of questions, and wellness staff should consider developing different survey instruments, survey groups, and data collection methods to be sure the right information is captured at the program’s beginning. View a sample agency survey

Step Four: Develop your wellness plan and implement the program

A great program begins with a great plan. A great plan defines the goals, objectives, activities, and other details of implementing the wellness program. The links below provide guidance for creating a wellness plan, including an overview of points to consider and an outline template.

Guidance on developing your wellness plan
Outline template for developing a wellness plan

Step Five: Develop or enhance wellness policies

Achieving policy change is the bedrock of a strong wellness program because it creates long-term improvements to the work environment and benefits staff more than short-lived activities (fitness challenges, competitions, etc.). Wellness programs should always seek to achieve policy-oriented goals, either through an overarching wellness policy or multiple single-issue policies (e.g., smoking, nutrition, incentives, etc.). This step is therefore never truly complete, as any existing policy can always be strengthened to support wellness a little more. Changing/Enhancing policy may take months or even years, so wellness committees should simultaneously pursue more easily achieved objectives supporting the program’s goals.

 The wellness policy should:

  • Improve work environments and procedures to better support the health and well-being of employees
  • Clarify the rules, responsibilities, and abilities related to employees engaging in wellness activities
  • Provide a framework for ongoing wellness activities
  • Be considered a work in progress that can always be enhanced.

Step Six: Evaluate Success*

Evaluation is a systematic process that should start at the beginning of a project and feature its own plan. The first step in developing your evaluation activities is to decide what you need to measure to determine the success of your program. These benchmarks are usually divided into two groups: process measures and outcome measures.

  • Process measures consider the steps of implementing a program separately from the results, and identify how activities could have been done better or should change moving forward (e.g., creating a wellness committee, engaging employees, etc.).
  • Outcome measures focus on the program’s results and success in delivering change (e.g., decreased smoking rates, decreased disability claims, etc.).

The evaluation plan should then map out what data will be collected and when throughout the life of the wellness program to monitor progress and measure outcomes. Developing a logic model will help inform this process and schedule by highlighting key steps or moments in your wellness plan that require data collection. By following this approach, the evaluation plan will demonstrate not only what your wellness program achieved but why it was successful.

*Adapted from Healthy Workforce 2010: An Essential Health Promotion Sourcebook, for Employers, Large and Small. 2001, Partnership for Prevention: Washington, DC at www.prevent.org/publications/Healthy_Workforce_2010.pdf. 

Last updated October 14, 2016