Posted by: A.R. Cherian | September 24, 2009

Chief Wellness Officer


An article from Business Week talked about how the Scotts Miracle-Gro corporation is trying to fight growing health care costs (20% of their net profits in 2003) by implementing an aggressive employee wellness program. Employees volunteer to have their health monitored, and those that get good grades get the benefit of lower health care premiums. Those who opt out, have to pay as much as $100 more per month for their health care coverage.

The company has also built a huge state-of-the-art fitness facility right next to their headquarters in Ohio:

Scotts CEO Jim Hagedorn built a soup-to-nuts medical and fitness center across the street from headquarters. Operated by Whole Health, the 24,000-square-foot facility cost $5 million and can meet pretty much any health-related need an employee might have, including a drive-thru for free prescription drugs. The clinic employs two full-time doctors, five nurses, a dietician, counselor, and two physical therapists. A team of fitness coaches provides personal training sessions for $30 an hour.

I think the concept of employers fighting the growing trend in America of becoming unhealthier has many benefits. If people are forced to pay more (significantly more) than others who sign up for a comprehensive wellness program, I think many will start getting serious about doing something about their health.

There are many concerns as well. Can this become a slippery slope of companies meddling in the lifestyle choices of their employees too much?

Where will this end? The consumption of alcohol, failure to exercise, skydiving, excessive television viewing, eating processed sugars, owning dangerous pets, flying private aircraft, mountain climbing, downhill ski racing, single-handed sailing, or spreading toxic chemicals on lawns?
– Harvey A. Schwartz, Lawyer suing Scotts for health-risk discrimination

Can companies abuse this in the future by discriminating employees for having hereditary conditions such as high risk for cancer, obesity, heart conditions? These have to be considered. I believe companies shouldn’t start discriminating employees based on all sorts of health fears outside of the most well-accepted ones such as smoking and obesity.

This article is a couple of years old. I think the current debate in Washington about creating public health care can take some of the pressure off of companies to implement their own wellness programs. Many companies may welcome it and maybe then they won’t even have to worry about the employee’s health as much. I think many companies would prefer to get out of the sticky situation of getting involved in employee’s personal lifestyle decisions if they can. I think they are primarily worried  about it now because it is a huge cost sink for the business, not because they are genuinely cared about the life and death of their employees.

What do you think? Will companies one day have a CWO – Chief Wellness Officer?



  1. WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for Web 2.0

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