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How Health and Wellness Gamification Can Improve Member Engagement

By Phil Britt | Jun 28, 2017

Engagement is critical to the health and wellness of members. If a person is simply told to lose weight or to follow other healthy behaviors, there's little encouragement to do so. All members, regardless of location, need to be similarly engaged to get the largest benefit out of any health and wellness plan. But simply telling someone to get healthy won't motivate a person; the carrot works better than the stick.

What Is Gamification?

Gamification uses the theory of achieving success to encourage desired behavior. It builds on the same theory used by developers in making video games. Some businesses have used this for a few years to encourage employees to gain skills or reach corporate goals. According to HealthcareDive, insurers recently started using gamification to encourage additional exercise, enrolling in disease management and other health care programs and following similar healthy behaviors, such as smoking cessation.

How Do You Use It?

Trustees can use gamification theory to set up competitions between individuals at a single location and among members in different locations. One or multiple teams can represent different offices. Award points for certain behaviors, such as pounds lost per team or steps or miles walked, with winners announced in periodic newsletters, perhaps with a photo and small article. There are several free downloadable apps to track this information, so take the time to research which is most suitable to your efforts.

What Should Be the Reward?

The recognition and the spirit of competition should be enough to encourage the desired healthy behaviors. Team participation also encourages camaraderie, with members helping one another achieve their goals for the good of the team. If trustees want to encourage further competition, they could offer small rewards — such as a gift card for each winning team member or prizes.

The benefits of encouraging members to participate in their own health and wellness are clear. According to Harvard Business Review, reducing unnecessary emergency room visits will save hundreds of dollars apiece. Preventing just four in-patient hospital trips can save $100,000 or more. Encouraging healthy behaviors through positive reinforcement works much better than penalizing people who don't participate in the desired activities.

By engaging in health and wellness, union members will more fully participate in their own well-being, which, in turn, should reduce time lost and benefits paid out for sick time.

Phil Britt has worked as a journalist for 40 years, specializing in business issues for the last 30. His work covering the steel industry and its labor issues has been referenced in books, while his articles have appeared on numerous websites, national and international publications. Among current and past clients have been the American Medical Association, Afcom, the Credit Union National Association, Independent Banker, EH Publishing, the Southeast Chicago Development Commission, the Northwest Indiana Times and Insurance & Technology Magazine, just to name a few.