Behavior Modification Takes Time, Patience, and Commitment

When it comes to health promotion, we often invest too little and expect too much. To change stubborn behavior patterns, we need to pick target health behaviors and provide a comprehensive, long-term series of interventions.

If you’ve ever been in sales, you probably know that people rarely buy on the first approach. They have to hear about the product through a variety of media — an introductory letter, a phone call, an advertisement, and then a sales call — before they’ll buy.

It’s the same in health promotion. You need to give people time to get acquainted with the idea of making changes, and offer a variety of opportunities to jump in and try. The more exposure they have, the more normal it will seem.

For example, in the 1950s the idea of NOT letting people smoke in our homes would have seemed the height of rudeness. Today, it’s he/she who lights up in your home or office who’s out of line. That cultural change took many years to accomplish. Awareness programs, the Surgeon General-ordered warnings on cigarette packages, stop-smoking programs and workplace smoking policy changes followed. Lawsuits against manufacturers, and smoking cessation aids helped — and through dogged and continuous effort, smoking rates that span the ages have plummeted drastically.

So, if you decide to seriously target a health behavior, determine the most effective interventions and plan for a sustained campaign.

Tips for Choosing Appropriate Interventions

If you’ve already introduced wellness programs and other healthcare interventions, you’re well on your way to improving employee physical and mental health and reducing the workplace costs associated with poor health. Here are a variety of suggested actions that will support your efforts.

  • Talk to other wellness professionals about their experiences with different types of interventions, good and bad. Ask for advice on how to choose, structure, time, and promote activities.
  • Ask senior managers to participate in activities, be members of wellness teams, and lend their support to your interventions.
  • Build on successful activities by making them annual events, preferably at the same time of year. Improve them, and make them a part of your organizational culture and calendar.
  • Get someone to take photographs whenever appropriate for use in newsletters, bulletin boards, and future promotions. Consider videotaping fun events — you can even collect video testimonials for use at company meetings.
  • Plan how you’ll evaluate interventions from the start. Make sure you have a way to measure participation, satisfaction, and related health benefits.
  • There’s a lot to consider when choosing interventions for your wellness program. Don’t overdo, especially if your program is new and your resources are scarce. Give yourself time for adequate research, planning, and promotion. Next year you’ll know so much more, and be able to refine the activities that worked, drop the duds, and add exciting new programs.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!