Who’s Getting Left Behind in Wellness?

A few years ago, Wired published an article about how “the old, the chronically ill, the poor” were being let down by the wearables industry. It was argued that these were groups of people who could benefit the most from devices like fitness trackers, but who lacked the interest, knowledge, and, frankly, the funds to get engaged.

Recently, I attended the Health Evolution Confab of Women Catalysts, and some of the discussion revolved around social forces such as low financial security and food insecurity. These types of issues have always existed, but I want to talk about how they factor into what we try to accomplish with wellness initiatives.

The truth is that in order to reach out to every worker we can, we need to take into account the fact that not everyone in the U.S. has the income and resources for shopping at farmers’ markets and high-end grocery stores. When people are worrying about just putting food on the table (let alone healthy food) for their families, it’s reasonable that they may struggle with maintaining their own well-being.

Despite the great challenge these issues present, I believe organizations are in a great position to make a positive difference for their employees.

Two major barriers to wellness you should know about

Let’s talk about two issues impacting millions of Americans.

Food insecurity. When people are described as “food insecure,” it means that they don’t know when they’ll be getting their next meal, let alone whether that meal is nutritious or of quality.

Food desert. This refers to areas where it’s very difficult to find healthy and unprocessed foods. For example, an area may have stores that offer canned, processed, and prepackaged products, but little in the way of quality, fresh produce and other wholesome foods.

Real consequences from real barriers

In addition to the stress and anxiety these situations can cause for people, they can also contribute to other poor health outcomes. For example, Feeding America explains how food insecurity is highly linked with obesity, which is a known risk factor for a number of chronic conditions.

In food deserts, healthier food is typically more expensive than unhealthy food, and it’s also harder to come by. These areas tend to be low-income, and residents are likelier to develop type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Accessible pathways to wellness

Even though these issues seem very challenging, employers can do their part to reach these populations (and potentially make a difference for some of their employees).

When providing healthy recipes and eating tips, focus on practical examples that would be realistic for a wide range of income levels.
Provide incentives, discounts, and rewards that could help a diverse range of people. Remember that not everyone lives in an area with a farmer’s market.
Create a community resource directory or establish a relationship with community-based social services that can connect lower-income employees with financial support for which they might qualify.
Start a wellness initiative to have employees participate in community walks that help raise awareness about health and hunger.
If you have cafeterias or vending machines at worksites, find out if you can offer healthier options, or even better yet, incentivize those healthier options with discounted prices.
Take a look at your organization’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts and see how you could help to address issues like food insecurity and food deserts.

Offer Wellness 101, 201, 301, etc…

Of course, these many considerations can be overwhelming for any organization to implement. With a steady partner in wellness, though, any organization can create a focused strategy to encourage employees to become healthier and more productive. We have additional resources and information at HumanaWellness.com if you want to check out more ideas.

These non-insurance services are provided by Humana Wellness.May 18th, 2017 10:38am