One of the new things I am seeing for employer based prevention or wellness programs is vendors offering companies some time limited program or single event. It seems like a great idea and easy way to step into the space. It goes something like this:
our wellness program is a 12 week based game that will get your people involved and active.
While this is all well and good and develops off the latest “gaming theory”, changing behavior is hard, but its even harder as one extends time. Sure its great to get a rah rah event, try to get everyone fired up and go spend 8 or 12 weeks doing the activity, but what happens when the activity ends? To truly move a populations’ health one has to change individual behavior and ingrain that change as part of someones life. At the end of 12 weeks some people will continue on , but many will drop off and revert to their old habits. Think New Years resolutions. If you measured the 12 week program population a year later you would find fewer people who stuck to these changes than those who were involved in an ongoing program, that addresses multiple areas of prevention and wellness, intersperses these time limited activities with many other interventions, and has many different engagement methods and tools to hit as many people as possible. Some people like to play games and see themselves at the top of a list, others are private and don’t want anyone to know how or what they are doing.
I was recently speaking with an executive at one of our clients who told me he was very private and did not want to get involved in these public programs, that he ran every morning, ate healthy, had a healthy weight and had regular visits with his physician. All his labs were good, etc. As one of the senior people at his organization I asked him if anyone else knew he did all of these activities and focused so much on his health? He basically said: no, I told you I’m very private and don’t want people to know what I do, its none of their business. While this is one example of someone who is private and does the right thing, how many more private people are there who are not healthy? How will they become engaged in a very public event?
Success in changing behavior requires a multitude of approaches and persistence. I’ve often likened it to the “shotgun approach”, you need multiple pellets because everyone is not the same. If they were, we’d all be healthy today, or maybe the opposite.