You’ve heard people use the words “health” and “wellness” together, but do you know the difference between these two terms? You might think that these terms are interchangeable, but there are significant differences between health and wellness that you (and your employees) need to know about.

What are Wellness Programs?

Wellness programs focus on preventative care, which supposedly saves policyholders (and employers) money in the long run. The problem is, many employers spend resources and risk compliance violations on programs that fail to deliver any quantifiable return on investment. 

Some employers believe that health problems can be avoided, or at least managed, if people get regular checkups, take their prescriptions, receive vaccines, and take other types of preventative measures. And, sure, one of the goals of wellness programs is to make people healthier. However, there are distinct differences between health and wellness that these employers often ignore.  

What is Health?

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” says the World Health Organization

In other words, health is so much more than just physical ailments. It’s about social and emotional fitness, too. 

What is Wellness?

Wellness is the “active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life,” according to The University of California, Davis

“It’s a dynamic process of change and growth.” 

As you can see, health and wellness have distinctly different meanings. However, they complement each other in one’s quest toward complete well-being.

You could say that wellness is the action, while health (good health) is the desired outcome. Or, if health is the goal, wellness is how you might achieve it. 

Why Does Any of This Matter?

You can’t choose the state of your health, but you can improve your wellness in the following ways:

  •           Exercising more.
  •           Quitting smoking.
  •           Seeing a doctor.

Making a conscious effort to improve your fitness can make you feel better and, ultimately, it costs less in healthcare costs. 

Employers need to understand the difference between health and wellness because it influences the corporate communications they have with their workforce. Many employees want to live healthier lives, but they are not sure how to do it. 

How to Address Wellness in Your Business

  •           Create “nudges” that encourage healthy habits — walking breaks, refrigerators and storage for packed lunches etc.
  •           Make your workplace a non-smoking zone. 
  •           Partner with local lunch restaurants to encourage healthy lunch options. 

While we don’t recommend “poking and prodding” your employees to become healthy, there’s no doubt that healthy employees are more productive and reduce financial exposure to health plans.

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