Historically, wellness has been associated primarily with weight loss, and since many of us slip right into a food coma come Thanksgiving and don't emerge until multiple holiday parties have left us loosening a belt notch or two, it's no coincidence that EBA features our annual Wellness Challenge issue on the eve of resolution season.

So, one might look at this year's participant, Emily Wert of Minnesota-based Unison and ask, "What's she doing taking a wellness challenge?"

However, taking such a limited perspective on wellness would be a missed opportunity. As Wert taught us in her 12-week course with OnLife Health, wellness is about so much more than simply losing weight. And if you're not taking this approach with your clients, you're missing out on reaching a whole portion of the employee population. A population that is increasingly open to tying their share of health insurance costs to health behaviors.

Take a recent Thomson Reuters-NPR Health Poll where respondents ranked stress - something that plagues us all no matter what our pants size - along with smoking and obesity nearly equally as the top three factors driving up health care costs. Not too surprising.

But, the poll also found almost one-third (30.7%) of Americans are open to charging the overweight and obese more for health insurance - and more than half (58.5%) of those polled believe smokers should pay more. Conversely, 84.8% feel those exhibiting healthful behaviors such as exercise and healthy eating should receive a discount on their health insurance premiums.

Just another example of how employers may be increasingly open to a well-structured wellness program that, in conjunction with the proper plan design put together by their knowledgeable adviser, works in harmony with the health plan to provide employees with the right motivation (be it through incentives or disincentives) to take control of their own health.

As a wellness coordinator herself, Wert offers a unique perspective on the efficacy of wellness programs and shares invaluable tips on how to start a successful program for your clients in this month's cover story Make time, take charge. As Wert said at the end of the Challenge, "It's never over, and I like to think of that as a good thing. What I tell people is, 'Jump on the bandwagon - [improving your health] is going to go forever, and there is nothing but fantastic benefits that come from that.'"

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