What sets us apart? We are a personalized habit change platform for disease prevention targeted towards at-risk individuals
Around 82% of large US companies offer health and wellness programs as part of employer-sponsored health coverage, with the assumption that these will yield health and economic benefits. However, a new JAMA study showed that such programs had no effects on health, healthcare spending and employment outcomes, raising concerns across this $8 billion industry and gaining widespread news coverage.
The study by Song and Baicker entitled “Effect of a Workplace Wellness Program on Employee Health and Economic Outcomes: A Randomized Clinical Trial” was published April 16th in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). It is the first large-scale, multi-site randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a workplace wellness program.
The study evaluated over 30,000 employees across 160 BJ’s Wholesale Club locations. The program was offered over the course of 18 months and focused on various aspects of health and wellness including nutrition, physical activity, stress reduction, and prevention. It was delivered by registered dietitians using webinars, and individual and team-based activities and challenges.
The results showed that there were some improved self-reported behaviors around exercising regularly and actively managing weight, but no difference in the other 27 self-reported health and behavior markers evaluated. There were also no changes in clinical measures, health care spending or utilization or employment outcomes.
Broad-based workplace wellness vs Newtopia’s targeted habit change approach
Newtopia distinguishes itself from the other myriad workplace wellness programs through our very targeted approach in our 1) choice of participants and 2) program delivery.
Who is our audience?
Invitation to participate in Newtopiais not offered to all employees. We specifically invite participants who are at risk for developing chronic disease, with the inclusion criteria as having two out-of-range metabolic syndrome (MetS)* components, one of which must be a high waist circumference. Our program aims to reduce metabolic risk factors which can be achieved with a 5% weight reduction.
Habit change through personalized coaching
Compared to generic one size fits all educational approaches, such as the one used in the JAMA study, Newtopia offers personalized lifestyle recommendations to achieve sustainable habit change. Each participant is matched with a personal health coach to offer ongoing support in nutrition, exercise, and behavioral/mental well-being.
The Editorial accompanying the journal issue agrees with our approach stating that:
“While employers must ensure some level of equity in their offerings, traditional, broad-based programs like the one analyzed by Song and Baicker may lack the necessary intensity, duration, and focus on particular employee segments to generate significant effects over a short time horizon. Investments in more targeted approaches that focus on those individuals with elevated risks for or already having poor health status or health behaviors may yield larger health and economic benefits”
Habit change takes time. We agree that the short duration of the study is a limitation and that 18 months may be too short to see effects on health, employment outcomes, and healthcare spending. Newtopia offers a longer experience in order to achieve sustainable lifestyle changes, sustained risk reduction and cost savings.
Implications for Newtopia
Our hyper-personalized and high-touch approach is different from the generic wellness program evaluated in the study. Their results cannot be generalized to our program performance. We have previously demonstrated risk and medical cost reductions (2x ROI) in our RCT. More information on the RCT conducted by Aetna proving our program efficacy, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, can be found here.
* What Is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic Syndrome is a collection of five risk factors, including: out of range waist circumference, elevated triglyceride levels, low HDL cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and elevated fasting blood sugar levels. Currently, up to 35 per cent of the US adult population between the ages of 18-65 (109 million) meet the criteria for Metabolic Syndrome. An adult with Metabolic Syndrome has annual health costs 60% higher than an average healthy employee.