Employee wellness programs are becoming an accepted and essential component of organizations. While studies continue to emerge regarding best practices for employee engagement, one thing is clear; Prevention is effective and has become the nucleus of wellness programs. But how do we ensure the prevention programs we are putting into place will work? We need to rely on qualified employee wellness practitioners, like registered dietitians (RDs) who are pros at prevention, rather than resorting to ambiguous standards which do not exist for employee wellness practitioners.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics requires three main components to classify as a wellness program. They are physical fitness, weight control, and nutrition education. All three components are essential to employee health. "People who do not engage in adequate physical activity, have poor nutrition habits, and/or are obese are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, some forms of cancer, arthritis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," reported the Surgeon General in 2001. Additionally, obese, inactive workers have lower worker productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher workers' compensation claims. As a result, employee wellness practitioners must be able to effectively address and incorporate these three components of wellness programs.
When identifying the most qualified professionals to address the three essential components of a wellness program, registered dietitians rank at the top. The list of skills suggested for a wellness director by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics closely mirrors the list of skills expected of an RD. RDs' are trained in nutrition counseling, weight management, and physical activity making them a solid choice to provide guidance and oversight to corporate wellness programs. It is important to note that not only are RDs well-qualified based on their skill set and training, they are also credentialed. Compare this to a "wellness professional or practitioner" who currently has no customary requirements, mandatory certification, or standard job definition for employee wellness practitioners. And the proof is in the bottom line. Medical nutrition therapy services provided by an RD is cost-effective and has positive impacts on both physical and biochemical parameters which are often key outcome indicators of the success of a corporate wellness program.
The secret to successful wellness programs? Use RDs as your employee wellness practitioners who will provide you with evidence-based wellness information that can address all three key components of an effective wellness program and help to lower your healthcare costs.
Klarenbach S, et al. Population-Based Analysis of Obesity and Workforce Participation. Obesity. May 2006: 920-927.
Mincher J, Leson, S. Worksite Wellness: An Ideal Career Option for Nutrition and Dietetics Practitioners. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2014; 114:1895-1901.