Corporate Health Promotion Has 3 Years to Get It Right

In comments before the 2009 Annual Art and Science of Health Promotion Conference, Michael O’Donnell, PhD, MPH, MBA (Editor in Chief, American Journal of Health Promotion) described rapid changes in this field and what it meant to practitioners. “Despite 4 decades of corporate health promotion as a profession, there is still no consensus as to the most effective and efficient way to render services. We have only about 3 years to get it right.”

Michael offers examples: “In smoking cessation, we have good science to guide us. We know that counseling therapy or nicotine replacement medication typically yields a 10% success rate. But when we combine counseling and nicotine replacement, the rate goes up to 30%. We also know when you increase the number of minutes of counseling, you increase success rates; but at 300 minutes we reach a plateau. Involving different types of people in counseling sessions also increases the likelihood of positive outcomes. By applying these scientific principles, we multiply our success 6-fold. Yet in something like weight control, beyond knowing people need to eat less and exercise more, we have very little knowledge of what works.”

Strongly believing the industry needs to dedicate itself to studying what works in health promotion, he was actively involved in promoting Senate bill (S.1001/HR2354). Called the Health Promotion FIRST (Funding Integrated Research Synthesis and Training) Act, many provisions became law when President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and began going into effect in 2010. The bill included additional health promotion provisions and enjoyed bipartisan support. Highlights include:

Development of a national health promotion plan
Increased health promotion research
Technical assistance to enhance evaluation of worksite health promotion programs
Regular surveys on worksite health program prevalence and components
Grants to pay part of the cost for comprehensive worksite health promotion programs in small organizations
Allowing employers to offer employees an insurance premium discount of up to 30% (instead of the current 20%) for positive lifestyle practices or participation in worksite health promotion programs and asking Health and Human Services to study the benefits of increasing to 50%.