What is the Wellness Fence?

In a recent article I wrote for I examined a few perceived reasons that wellness programs fail. I have received an outpouring of feedback based on the article on both sides of the current “wellness fence”. It seems that many people are very passionate about this fence, but I am not really sure what each side represents and why everyone is so worked into a lather about their side. Aren't we all working for the same goal of making the American worker healthier and a more informed and efficient consumer of health services? So let’s look at this fence and try to figure it out.

Does the fence represent the “old guard” of wellness offering HRAs, biometrics versus the “new guard” approaching wellness in a more holistic way? Or is it the proponent of outcomes versus the proponents of participation based programming and incentives? Or is it the group focused on deciphering the holy grail of wellness (hard ROI calculations) versus those focused more on the goal of employee satisfaction and productivity?

Well my take is this; let’s stop arguing about who’s side is right and realize this is not a black and white issue. I don’t think that the parties arguing their side can define what their side stands for. The examples I used above are not mutually exclusive. If you factor in the old/new guard with outcomes/participation, you now have 4 “sides” to the analogous fence. Add in ROI versus soft value and you have 8 “sides”. In fact, through the algorithm that we use at the Wellness Research Institute to define the wellness “personality” of an organization, there are more unique combinations of answers (or sided of the fence), than there are stars in the milky way galaxy. And this is only focusing on goals and philosophy.

Another added level of complexity that makes me question an argumentative choosing of sides at this point in the evolution of the wellness industry is that no one…let me repeat…NO ONE, has their arms around the depth and definition of what makes up wellness or population health management. Our organization currently examines 27 categories of services to make up this field but we know already of 8 more that will be added to our database soon. 10 years ago how many people would have classified mobile apps, wearables and onsite clinics as part of their population health management strategy?

All said, we implore those in the industry to not waste effort picking sides and disparaging those that don’t share their views. Let’s put the focus on understanding the evolution of the industry and figuring out which pieces fit well together to help the end goal of employee health and productivity.