Social media is proving to be an important tool for employers trying to encourage their employees to participate in Wellness Programs or to achieve weight/health goals. With much of the population looking at text messages, Facebook and Twitter each day, it appears to be the wave of the future.
The question at this point is how it should be used; many companies are coming up with ways it can be the most effective for their employees. Chilton Hospital in New Jersey had tried for years to engage its employees in programs and initiatives aimed at promoting well-being and reducing health care costs. The resulting behavior changes were minor and covered only a small number of employees. Then in 2011, Chilton tried a new approach; they entered a county-wide 100 day fitness challenge where employees from local companies formed teams of 6 and vied to see who could walk the most, lose the most weight and eat the healthiest. Participants logged onto a Facebook-like social network where they reported results and cheered each other on. As an incentive to participate, Chilton did offer a cash reward of $150 each to members of the winning team and $500 to the person who lost the most weight. Ultimately though, money was not the driving force; it was the challenge and online camaraderie that pulled people in.
Another company, incentalHEALTH, surveyed the participants in its own Wellness Program about their use of social media. It found that 90% of them were on Facebook and 81% texted daily. With this information, the company created a model which delivers wellness information via daily coaching texts and a Brag to Facebook feature. Other features being considered are online wellness journals, discussion groups and progress reports that can be shared with others.
There is an ever growing list of services and apps now available (with more and more coming out each day) for those companies interested in promoting wellness through social media. What better way to get people involved and to change unhealthy behaviors than by employing a media that is an integral part of so many their lives?