HealthDay News — A workplace wellness program improves certain self-reported health behaviors but does not impact clinical measures of health or health care spending, according to a study published in the April 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Zirui Song, M.D., Ph.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and Katherine Baicker, Ph.D., from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, examined a multicomponent workplace wellness program. Self-reported health behaviors and clinical measures of health were compared at 20 randomly selected intervention sites (4,037 employees) and 20 control sites (4,106 employees). Health care spending and utilization and employment outcomes were assessed using administrative data for 20 intervention sites and 140 control sites (28,936 employees).

The researchers found that the rates of self-reported outcomes were significantly higher in the intervention group versus the control group for engaging in regular exercise (69.8 versus 61.9 percent) and for actively managing weight (69.2 versus 54.7 percent) after 18 months. No significant effects were seen on other prespecified outcomes, including 27 self-reported health outcomes and behaviors, 10 clinical markers of health, 38 measures of medical and pharmaceutical spending and utilization, and three employment outcomes.

“These findings may temper expectations about the financial return on investment that wellness programs can deliver in the short term,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to Eli Lilly.

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