NSF awards $1.3 million in support
Corporations sink millions into employee wellness programs that don't work.
They don't work because:
They are not personalized - what motivates one employee to exercise may not motivate another colleague.
Managers lack real-time data to improve program effectiveness.
The programs often strive for optimal goals, when good-enough results would yield broader benefits.
A computer engineering professor at The University of Akron has devised a novel design for future wellness programs. The National Science Foundation praised the proposal and awarded $1.3 million to test and validate the Personal Wellness Management System.
"There is a critical national need for cost-effective programs that encourage exercise and healthy lifestyle behaviors," said the professor and principle investigator, Dr. Shivakumar Sastry. "The early results of our design show that it has the potential to fundamentally transform how wellness programs are designed and managed."
Sastry said companies and organizations that provide health insurance will be attracted to the Personal Wellness Management System because it will reduce costs. Employees will benefit from the holistic and customized approach.
"Many things must come together to make a person well: you need medical practitioners, nutritionists, exercise specialists, behavioral scientists," Sastry said. "At the same time, these systems need to be rigorous enough, because this is a healthcare business, with serious repercussions on cost for organizations. So if an organization can invest only $30,000 in a wellness program, the Personal Wellness Management system will show how to allocate those dollars precisely throughout a population for the very best outcome."