HR pros do a lot of hand wringing over how to cut health care costs. But one aspect often remains overlooked: the health of employees’ children.
However, children account for an average of 20% to 25% of employer health care spending, according to a Hewitt Associates’ study. Rates of diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity are soaring among America’s kids and teens. And 32% of school children are obese or overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bottom line: It pays to help employees’ children develop healthy lifestyles. Here are five tips for including kids in wellness programs and encouraging parents to enroll themselves and their children:
1. Offer a rebate on health insurance premiums to employees who meet wellness goals for themselves and their children. That’s what IBM’s Children’s Health Rebate program does.
Families fill out online surveys about their eating, health and living habits and receive goals to meet over three-months. Adults and children track their progress online. Employees who meet their health goals receive a $150 rebate. About half of IBM workers who receive health care participate in the program.
2. Provide wellness assessments for children. Texas Instruments Inc. offers online assessments for employees’ kids and allows them to use the company’s workout rooms. Texas Instruments organizes a one-week summer fitness camp for kids ($170 per child). Camp activities include fitness games, nutrition classes and exercises that children can do at home.
3. Include kids in health fairs or organize similar events just for them. Every summer, Medtronic Inc., a Minneapolis-based medical technology company, invites kids and their parents to participate in the company’s “Fun Days.” Activities include bike safety lessons, yoga and nutrition seminars for children. Medtronic also uses kids’ online games to encourage exercise, including hosting a “virtual marathon.”
4. Use wellness offerings for kids to encourage parents to join the program. Tell employees that adults and children who participate in wellness programs together can help the whole family remain healthy. Parents who don’t participate may change their minds if it can benefit their children.
5. Don’t use negative incentives to encourage employees to enroll their kids. For example, some companies charge higher health care premiums for employees who don’t join wellness programs. Such a strategy makes employees think that the company really doesn’t care about children’s health and only wants to save money.