The Fruit Club

February 2, 2010

Of course, I’m always on the lookout for interesting ways to promote worksite wellness. One of the companies I work with has created a fruit club to promote less “vending machine” snacking. 

Here’s how it works:

  1. Every 4 weeks, members are asked to purchase approximate $10 worth of fruit and bring it to work.  By splitting all of the members over 4 weeks, you get multiple people bringing fruit every week.  For example, if you had 20 members, you would have 5 people scheduled for each week.  The goal is to provide approximately 1 serving of fruit per person per day.
  2. A large bowl is available (next to the vending machine) for the fruit.
  3. Members can then grab fruit snacks throughout the week.

And we provided the following guidelines to help get things started:

  1. Try to get something that can provide 15-20 servings.
  2. Wash the fruit if necessary (apples-yes, bananas-no)
  3. Practical fruit selections – something that can be out all day and is easy to grab and eat – (Oranges – great, Avocados – not so much)
  4. Seasonal – It never hurts to grab a great deal on seasonal produce!
  5. Portions – if you want to bring something that spoils quickly (blueberries, for example), consider several packages that could be refrigerated and placed out separately.
  6. The fruit bowl will be labeled, but it would be a good idea to label any extra/refrigerated items as well.
  7. Remember, it’s your week to provide fruit – and then you get three weeks off – so a little effort will go a long ways.

Of course, depending on your situation, you may have to adjust the program to suit your needs.  We were fortunate enough to have someone who volunteered to keep track of members and schedule fruit weeks. (Special thanks go out to that person if she’s reading!)

And, thanks to that organization, I’m happy to report that the fruit club has been active in that office for almost 6 months without any major problems.

Be Well!



New Resource

January 31, 2010

I’ve just run across another great resource for individuals looking to start a wellness program.  The posts include some great information on justifying, establishing and evaluating wellness programs.

Check out

Be Well!

GINA and Wellness Programs

January 29, 2010

I posted this reply in a private forum elsewhere, but I felt it was a reasonable to put the ideas out there for the public – so I’m posting it here as well.

The question was about the impact of GINA (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008) on wellness programs and incentives. I ramble a little – but you should be used to that by now…

“I’ll start by saying that I’m not a GINA expert, nor am I an attorney, so please don’t base a legal defense on my thoughts…

As I understand it, the biggest problem with GINA and wellness programs revolves around the use of family history as a risk factor. However, when we look at the items that we may address through a wellness program, there are a large number of items that aren’t contingent on family history.

Let’s take a step back – the real goal of wellness programs, at least from a corporate side, is to reduce costs. There are two factors that generally contribute to those costs: conditions and behaviors. In general, once someone has a condition, it’s something that they have to manage for life. So our goal turns to detecting the condition early enough to prevent a catastrophic event (this detection is where family history helps) and managing the condition to prevent a costly disease progression or event. Certainly this side of our program must be concerned with GINA.

The balance of the program, and some might argue the real place to get “bang for the buck”, has to do with behaviors. This includes items like tobacco cessation, weight management and activity programming. Unless I’m missing something, these items should be clear of GINA concerns (unless you are offering these programs based on family history).

So, to the point of your question, providing a wellness program is still possible under the GINA regulations, especially if you concentrate on modifying behaviors and steer clear of using patient history as criteria for inclusion or incentives.

I’d love to hear thoughts from others…”

Be Well!

California, Here I Come!

January 22, 2010

Ok – not really… Though, I must admit the warm weather is appealing these days.

 And it seems that I’m not the only one still making New Year’s resolutions (I’ll post more about that soon). The California Department of Public Health has launched (or, more accurately, I have just found) a website promoting tools for a free employee wellness program. The site includes instructions, a schedule, and all of the forms and literature you need to run a successful program addressing healthy eating and activity. The site also includes several other tools to help improve your overall worksite wellness, including items like vending machine standards and info on establishing walking groups.

You can find the site at

Be well.

What is a Wellness Program Anyway?

July 23, 2009

Let’s imagine that it’s a perfect world. You’ve been given free reign over your company’s new wellness program. You have full management support, a big budget with no strings, enthusiastic employees and a corner office (you can dream – right?)

So now what?

I’ll blame my experience in software for my tendency to want a list of requirements before we answer that question. When you’re creating something – most anything – it’s hard to make the right decisions if you don’t know what the final product really must do.

So what does our wellness program have to do?  That depends on who you ask. Without going into a long discussion about the business folks verses the health and wellness folks and the pros and cons of each, I’m going to list a few likely requirements from each camp.

Here are a few thoughts from the wellness folks:

  • Our wellness program should reach as many people in our audience as possible
  • It should improve their “wellness”
  • It should improve company morale

And here are a few from the business folks:

  • Our wellness program should save us money
  • Or reduce turnover
  • Or reduce sick time
  • Oh – and you have to prove it.

The good news is that you’ve already got your support and money for this year. The bad news is that the business folks are the ones who will likely decide if you get to have it again next year.

So how do we address these requirements?  Well, from a high level, we have to show that our program makes a difference.  That means that we need to show an improvement in some area between the start and finish.  So we’ll have to take some sort of measurement at the start and at the end. And we need to do something to make an improvement – we’re not sure what yet – but something. Keep in mind, these changes will take time, so plan on watching for change over a long timeperiod.  

Ok – I’m just going to blurt this out. I’ve been trying to build the suspense and supporting evidence and all that stuff – but it’s killing me.  A basic program really needs three things; an assessment (baseline measurement), an intervention and an analysis of the outcome. 

The assessment part gives us our baseline and helps us look at what we really may want to change. Some people use a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) at this stage to help them decide what to address. This is a good tool, but I’d suggest that you look beyond the standard HRA items and think about things like absenteeism. How many days did your company loose to the flu last year?

That brings us to the intervention part (and, no, I’m not talking about the ones you see on reality TV). This is the real meat of the program – the part where you can really make a difference. Sure, if you use an HRA for your assessment, some people are going to see their recommendations and make some changes. But most of the time, that’s simply not enough to help someone change a behavior. And not everyone in your population is going to need (or want) the same thing. The number of choices you have here goes beyond the scope of this post, but we’ll discuss it in the near future.

Finally, we want to understand how we did with our program. Our analysis of the program should include another measure of whatever we used for our baseline. So, for example, be prepared for another round of HRAs or another trip to accounting for the absentee numbers. And be prepared to answer some questions about how successful we were.

I know we’ve been through a lot here – and some of it very quickly – but I promise we’ll go into more detail (and hopefully discussion) as time goes on. Until then, I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions!

Be well.

Hello, World!

July 22, 2009

When I created this blog, I deleted the introductory “Hello, World!” post that the system creates for you. My plan was to jump right in and solve the problems of the world. Maybe not all of them – it was a Tuesday, after all – but enough of them that I could put off posting again until next week and not feel like the world would be angry. It was all so simple…

…until I looked at how much we have to solve. Everything I thought to talk about really only makes sense in some sort of context. And that context makes all the difference in the validity of the discussions. So I decided it best to give a simple introduction to my vantage point. If nothing else, it will give me a way to defend my thoughts.

I’ll start by saying that I have never run a wellness program. I have worked, for the past five years, on software that supports wellness programs. I have been the observer. I have watched, questioned, supported and analyzed dozens of programs. I’ve seen the frustrations of wellness program managers; first in getting management support and then in getting employee support. I’ve seen programs succeed, and I’ve seen them fail. I’ve even chipped in my few ideas here and there (and some of them actually worked). But – I’ve not actually had my butt on the line when it comes to making the program work. So take my cavalier ideas for what they are worth – musings of someone who has observed.