Public-Private Partnerships: The Key to Wellness Programs That Work

By: Steve Cox VP, Public Relations Sodexo North America
May 18, 2016 1:40 PM ET

Health isn’t something that begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. The benefits of healthy living don’t come to an end when an employee leaves work. So why should wellness programs stop at the office door?

Effective wellness programs must engage employees in every aspect of their lives. To help employees stay on the path to good health, they have to reach beyond workplace walls to help employees stay well at home and in the community.

That’s why public-private partnerships are crucial when it comes to wellness programs. When employers partner with community groups, they can work together to touch all aspects of an employee’s lifestyle, from eating a healthy breakfast to reducing stress throughout the workday to getting enough sleep at night.

The reasons we need to live healthier lives are clear: Preventable chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are becoming more and more common. Chronic diseases cost $225.8 billion each year in lost productivity. That’s in addition to the $93 billion spent on health insurance claims each year.

Obviously, this isn’t a fight that a single organization can take on alone. Organizations must collaborate to make wellness work. That’s why Sodexo is building public-private partnerships to promote healthy communities.

Last year, Sodexo partnered with the YMCA of Central Florida to create the Communities for Health program. This 3-year pilot program aims to integrate wellness at work and at home by creating highly personalized plans for employees and offering round-the-clock support. While Sodexo’s expertise is in running healthy workplaces and cafeterias, the YMCA brings its expertise in recreation and family life. Participants have access to Sodexo’s registered dieticians and YMCA’s lifestyle coaches and fitness classes. By putting all of our resource together, we can help people improve diet and exercise habits. The program also bridges the gap between work and home with personalized text message reminders that encourage users to stay up to date on health screenings and other preventive medical care.

The program has five specific goals:

  • Engage participants at work, home and in the community
  • Tap into community partners
  • Evaluate participants based on risk and readiness
  • Reduce risk by encouraging healthy behaviors
  • Inspire participants to be agents of change

The program launched in August 2015, and even though it’s very early, we’ve already seen some promising results.

Nearly half of all employees who were eligible for the program enrolled in it. Of those, 94 percent have already met with a lifestyle coach, and 85 percent have made appointments for health screenings.

And 88 percent of Communities for Health participants enrolled in the fitness program, compared to a national average of 21 percent according to Rand.

We still have a long way to go as a nation to turn back the tide of chronic disease. To do it, we’ll have to work together. Public-private partnerships can help bridge the gap between work-life and home-life to help people stay healthy all day long.