Management Magazine
Health

Embracing wellness in businesses is cost effective in the long run

Jubilee Insurance creates a Wellness programme dubbed “Maisha FITI” to boost employee productivity.

By DR PATRICK GATONGA

For millions of Kenyans who are ardent social media users, you might have come across this popular phrase that “majority of Kenyans are a sickness away from plunging into poverty”. From the face of it, the phrase captures the collective fear about the struggle that families have to undergo in order to manage illnesses, seek care and pull together the money needed to pay for healthcare. Ordinarily, most Kenyans are vastly unprepared for medical emergencies that require large outlays. A health survey by Financial Sector Deepening estimates that every year, about 12 per cent of households will need to take a family member to the hospital for care. The result is that the majority poor turn to their social networks for assistance or, more damagingly, resort to selling assets to finance care.

Wellness programmes

Policy makers have been on an overdrive to try and suggest solutions that are integral in managing healthcare costs and one of this is adoption of wellness programmes by Kenyans. This includes adoption of wellness programs as an alternative and preventive approach.

It hasn’t escaped the attention of economists, healthcare professionals, human resource practitioners and other industry experts who posit that health and productivity are ‘inextricably linked’ and that a healthy workforce leads to a healthy bottom line. The connections between lifestyle behaviours, elevated health risks, and chronic diseases are already a concern, with studies strongly revealing that employees with elevated health risks are more likely to develop chronic diseases. 

The health and wellness of a workforce has been recognised as a contributing factor to the overall success of an organisation. The fact that many employees spend the majority of their working hours in the workplace makes it a natural venue for investment in health. When they feel their employer is invested in their wellbeing, they have a reason to stay with the company longer, lending their experience and deepening the relationships they can have with their customers and clients. 

A study conducted in 2018 by Transamerica found out that Johnson & Johnson reported 3.7 per cent lower average annual growth in total medical spending and saved between USD1.88 and USD3.92 for every dollar spent on wellness programs for 30,000 employees. Other large employers also managed to reduce care costs by tailoring wellness and fitness interventions for employees with high chronic disease risks.

Establishing successful wellness programs for employees

While establishing a wellness program by itself might be a step in the right direction, the success of such a program will depend on the strategies put in place to achieve the desired outcome. Some ways of doing this include collaborating with consultants or wellness specialists to create programmes, embedding wellness benefits into health plans or negotiating with health clubs. You might also create a reward system for excitement while incentivising uptake of wellness activities, especially if you are introducing ‘Wellness’ as a new culture in the company.

‘Maisha Fiti’ at Jubilee Insurance

At Jubilee Insurance, we have brought on board all our medical policy holders to enjoy our Wellness programme dubbed “Maisha FITI”. Through this programme, we have created a platform bringing together multiple collaborative partners to enable our members enjoy healthy physical and mental wellbeing. The partners include fitness clubs, travel partners, hotels and retail outlets, amongst others. In the arrangement, a policy holder is only required to visit any of the partner facilities and show the Jubilee Insurance Wellness Card to enjoy products and services at a discounted rate. In turn, an individual is able to access healthy lifestyle choices that impact one’s physical and mental health.

Informative programs

Maisha FITI also encompasses provision of healthcare and medical information by means of health fairs, seminars, classes, and online platforms. For example, for women, the programme has a Mum’s Club which is a platform for knowledge sharing and learning on women’s and family health. Similarly, it includes a Lifestyle Management programme providing tailored information and service support for people suffering from chronic illnesses. These have been designed with a view of sustaining behavioural change by creation of a culture and environment that supports and rewards wellness.

With social media quickly emerging as a critical channel of interaction, businesses are encouraged to create an interactive, engaging wellness experience through social media tools. For instance, through such tools, companies can form teams and/or inspire employees to lose weight, exercise more and, ultimately, become a healthier and happier workforce. Through this, businesses are able to reinvent their People and Wellness Strategy for a more engaged and productive workforce. 

While employee health-related expenditures are expected to continue to outpace inflation for the foreseeable future, investing in initiatives which reduce the aggregate economic burden related to employee health may further bolster the company’s success and brand outlook. 

The writer is the General Manager (Medical Business) at The Jubilee Insurance Company of Kenya.

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