More large employers are instituting health plan strategies that encourage workers to take responsibility for their own health, according to a recent survey by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health.

One of the major drivers: today’s sluggish economy. “Even in tight times, employers will continue to encourage healthy behaviors with financial incentives and other initiatives,” says Ted Nussbaum, senior consultant at Towers Watson. “However, there are challenges to changing employee behavior that extend beyond budget constraints and employer-sponsored programs. Inspiring workers to be actively involved in their own health remains an uphill battle for most companies,” he adds.

The key may be for employers to take more aggressive measures in motivating employees to take charge of improving their own health. “Employers frustrated with high costs and limited employee interest in personal health management will be forced to take more aggressive steps to drive down cost increases while keeping workers healthy and productive. Building a healthy workforce has to be a team effort with both employers and their workers actively involved,” says Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health.

Some employers are taking heed. For example, more employers are planning to offer incentives for completing a health risk assessment, the survey found. More than half now offer health coaches as part of their wellness programs, and about one in four large employers now offers an onsite health center.

The survey was conducted from November 2009 to January 2010 and involved 507 employers with 1,000 or more workers.

This story has been reprinted with permission from Employee Benefit Adviser.

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