This blog was originally published in May 2018. This is an updated version that reflects today’s environment.
It feels like an appropriate time to reflect on the past, present, and future of wellness.
It wasn’t long ago that the world identified the real threat posed to us, our companies, and our society—never more evident than now— should the rate of chronic diseases, driven by lifestyle choices, continue at its current pace. Employers recognized that they could play an important role in improving the quality of their employees’ lives and their businesses by improving health.
The premise was simple: assess current health statuses through a health risk assessment or take blood draws to help people understand how good or not-so-good shape they were in.
The logic went: once someone knew their current health status, they would act, right?
Unfortunately, it was never that easy. People are predictably irrational.
Wellness programs had to expand their scopes, bringing in technology, incentives and broadening what falls under the pillars of health and wellness.
Lots of people were paying attention—with healthcare costs in the United States accounting for 18% of GDP, poor health is big business. An influx of companies entered the market promising quick ROIs and easy solutions to solving healthcare problems. From humble and noble beginnings, wellness has become an $8 billion industry.
Originally, companies touted health improvement, but ultimately, they could not deliver. Instead, we saw a shift from a focus on “health” to “corporate culture,” or “employee experience,” or “benefits navigation hubs.”
Then 2020 and the pandemic came, and with it, additional complexities to take care of employees remotely and pressure to really focus on improving health.
Ultimately, the rapidly changing environment has led the wellness industry to shrink. An HR executive investing in wellness must honestly ask, “Will the vendor I choose or partner with today still be around a year from now?”
There are bright spots. You’ll find companies like Vitality that are focused on designing programs that make people healthier and can adapt to meet the needs of our changing environment. Imagine working with a partner who uses clients’ dollars wisely by tailoring activities to focus on interventions that have the most profound impact on each member while proactively providing support when unusual times arise. Clients don’t have to worry about incentive structure or how to drive sustainable behavior change because their partner leverages the best evidence and expertise from around the globe, and that focus never shifts from what works. Wouldn’t that be cool? We think so.
Vitality has been a leader of behavior change from day one. We were the first to link wearable technology to verify engagement in the program. We were the first to link financial incentives to participation. Our latest innovation, Vitality One, is built using the foundation of Vitality Active Rewards 2020, which recently earned a Bronze EFMA award in the Core Insurance Transformation category. With every iteration of Vitality, we’ve had one single focus: making our 20 million members healthier. We’ve done this for more than 20 years globally, and we’re going to continue that mission for the next 20 years as Vitality.