Wellness more than incentives, expert says

July 16, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Some companies starting wellness programs have come up with novel ways to encourage employees to live healthy lifestyles, such as bonuses to those who quit smoking.

But an expert in the field warns that the material rewards may only be effective for a short time.

Workers should find an "internal reward" for following a healthy lifestyle, said Michael Todt, director of Sharpe Hospital, a mental hospital in Weston, W.Va.

Organizers of wellness programs can help workers find those internal rewards by showing them how healthy habits can allow them to better enjoy hobbies or activities that are important to them, such as hunting, Todt said.


Todt spoke Tuesday at City Hospital during a meeting of the Wellness Council of West Virginia. The Wellness Council helps companies and agencies understand the importance of starting wellness programs in the workplace.

Although implementing wellness programs can be a big challenge, there are many payoffs to a company, such as reduced health-care costs and lower absenteeism, said Dave Steurer, head of the Wellness Council of West Virginia.

Todt spoke to about a dozen people who are implementing wellness programs in private companies and organizations.

Todt pointed to statistics that show West Virginians have room for improvement in their lifestyles. Although West Virginians have less of a problem with homicide and binge drinking than the rest of the country, they have a greater problem with heart disease, cancer, teen pregnancy rates and smoking, he said.

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