Which Incentives Deliver the Greatest Participation in Health and Well-being Programs?

Driving participation and keeping employees engaged in a health and well-being program is a challenge many employers have experienced. There are proven ways, however, to improve participation. For example, research published by the Rand Company shows that incentives can increase participation by around 20% and that “higher-value” health and well-being programs can achieve a median participation rate of 40%. A high-value program is considered one that offers three components: “(1) screening to detect health risks, (2) lifestyle management to reduce health risks and encourage healthy lifestyles, and (3) disease management to support individuals with manifest chronic conditions.”

Research published by KFF goes even farther, showing that programs offering incentives for taking health risk assessments have higher participation rates than those that offer no incentive. It stands to reason, therefore, that combining a financial incentive with a comprehensive program that includes risk assessments provides the best opportunity for improved participation.

According to research, employers save $3.27 in healthcare costs and $2.73 in absenteeism costs for every $1 they spend on wellness programs.

Newtopia success story

A large Fortune 50 company with more than 250,000 employees worldwide and 300,000 lives covered through its medical health plans, was focused on cultivating a culture of well-being. When they noticed an alarming increase in medical costs, they knew they needed to take action. At the end of 2019, the company partnered with Newtopia to conduct a pilot for its employees in two different markets. The goal was to reduce the risk of chronic disease through a personalized experience directed at preventing, reversing, and slowing the progression of chronic disease.

The company decided to use employee incentives to promote participation. Incentives included a monthly contribution to the employee’s health savings account plus an additional contribution per month for a participating spouse or domestic partner. To receive the incentive, participants were required to perform one of the following each month:

  • Complete one coaching session with a Newtopia Inspirator
  • Track their nutrition
  • Track their weight (a smart scale was provided by Newtopia)
  • Participate in a Newtopia challenge

To participate, employees and their spouses completed an online risk assessment or completed a biometric screening that indicated a body mass index (BMI) of 28 or greater, or two or more of the following risk factors:

  • Blood glucose levels ≥ 100mg/dl
  • Blood Pressure ≥ 130/85 mm HG
  • Triglycerides ≥ 150 mg/dl
  • HDL levels ≤ 50 mg/dl for women and ≤ 40 mg/dl for men

The results were impressive. Even in a pandemic, 7,753 employees and their spouses or domestic partners enrolled in the Newtopia experience. This is 71% of those who were eligible, substantially surpassing its goal of 4,200 participants. Even more impressive is that 84% of participants stayed engaged throughout the program with 94% of those participating in a coaching session each month.

  • Total weigh lost exceeded 35,800 pounds
  • 77% of participants had a positive weight reduction.
  • 44% of participants had a minimum weight loss of 4.3%.
  • Average weight loss was 4.2% (p<.0001).
  • 22% of obese participants dropped a BMI category.

These results highlight that even in the most difficult of times, meaningful and impactful health improvements can be achieved. In addition to losing weight and improving health during the pandemic, participants were able to stay engaged and on track to reach their goals. They overwhelmingly reported that their Newtopia Inspirator helped them cope with all of the stressors related to the pandemic.

Research shows that wellness programs can increase worker productivity by 5%, the equivalent of “adding one additional day of productive work per month for the average employee.”

About the Newtopia Experience

Traditional health and well-being programs are curriculum-based and designed with a one-size-fits-all approach. These programs rely heavily on participants being self-motivated, which is one of the reasons why so many fail to produce sustainable results. Newtopia differs in that its program is tailored to each participant’s unique health risks, genetics, medical history, motivation, social determinants of health, personal preferences, and goals. The Newtopia experience then focuses on lifestyle management, habit change, and avoiding or reversing chronic disease.

As part of the Newtopia experience, each participant is matched to an Inspirator using a proprietary personality matching algorithm. Inspirators engage one-on-one with participants on a regular basis to discuss topics such as developing and maintaining better nutrition, exercise, and behavioral well-being habits. Inspirators provide accountability, while long-term engagement is supported by digital tools such as connected devices and interactive apps.

Newtopia’s Inspirator-to-participant synchronization rate is 99%, meaning that fewer than 1% of participants request a new match.

Incentives: Better together

The value of a health and well-being program is 100% dependent on employee participation, so finding ways to encourage participation should be your benefits team’s top priority. While financial incentives are a great place to start, employers can drive even greater participation by offering a high-quality program that includes health risks screenings, lifestyle changes, and chronic disease management. These incentives, when combined, help bring greater value for both the employee and the employer.

Learn more about Newtopia’s solutions here.