Hospital fights employee obesity with social sharing and gamification

As the healthcare industry tries to address the nationwide obesity crisis, one California hospital has figured out a way to help its dangerously overweight workforce shed pounds by developing a corporate health plan around social sharing and gamification--the use of game-like activities in typically non-game situations.

The plan is working, according to BenefitsPro. When El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, Calif., launched the program in January, two-thirds of its staff was obese--a problem considering those same employees are charged with protecting the health of hospital patients. By late August the employees had lost a total of more than 1,000 pounds and wanted to continue with the program.

"Previous efforts did not sufficiently keep our employees motivated," Barbara Love, director of employee wellness and health services at El Camino Hospital, told BenefitsPro.

So she tried something new and introduced a fun, interactive way to help employees change their overall health and lifestyle as part of the hospital's wellness plan. The hospital implemented an employee-engagement platform that provides online contests, quizzes, games and raffles.

"Employees feel motivated and supported to become healthier," Love said. "This is evident by the comments we see posted. The sense of community has deepened as participants are motivated to set and conquer goals."

The program is so successful the hospital plans to roll out a second challenge for staff to help them maintain the weight loss, according to the article. Love expects 80 percent of the workforce will participate.

Employee wellness plans are becoming more popular as a way to curb rising medical costs, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. A recent survey from Mercer indicates that in addition to these wellness programs, 52 percent of large employers now offer financial motivation to entice employee participation, up from 48 percent in 2012 and 33 percent in 2011.

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