If your wellness program consists of a health risk assessment and nothing else, you may be missing the bigger picture. While the tools can yield important information, they may ignore broader factors in employees’ lives that are influencing the unhealthy behavior.

Take, for example, an overweight employee who works an eight-hour day in the office, then goes home to care for an aging parent and toddler. The stress caused by the caregiving responsibilities could be just one of the many reasons the person is over-eating, resulting in weight gain.

“If health risk assessments are the only entry point to get help or support for health and wellness, that does leave out a lot of other factors that are affecting people’s health and wellness, and affecting their performance on the job,” says Dr. Deborah Teplow, CEO and co-founder of the Institute for Wellness Education.

Also see: Toxic workplaces override wellness efforts

New research from the IWE shows significant gaps in the majority of Americans’ understanding about what constitutes good health and wellness, revealing more than one in three Americans do not recognize that wellness is more than the absence of diagnosed illness or disease. Moreover, most Americans have misconceptions about how to make lifestyle changes that are effective and sustainable.

“People don’t have an appreciation for all the factors that contribute to or take away from their health and wellness,” says Teplow. “So when employers do offer a program, it may not be addressing the immediate needs of employees that could bring them on board.”

And, despite evidence that demonstrates that many different factors, including psychological, social, physiological and environmental, contribute to successful and sustainable weight loss, nearly three-quarters of men (73%) and 68% of women believe that willpower is the most important step to losing weight.

“Americans still believe that willpower and motivation are the keys to success, without recognizing willpower and motivation can only take us so far,” says Teplow. “For change to be sustainable we need solutions tailored exactly to the individual’s needs, interests and desires. Motivation is highly overrated and there are other factors that go into a person’s ability to make sustainable change.”

And, despite the prevalence of workplace wellness programs, 62% of employees feel their employers do not encourage or promote healthy habits or activities in the workplace.

“Feeling understood is a big part of helping the person in the change process,” says Teplow.

Also see: Workplace stress a global issue

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