Independent accrediting agency URAC said its board of directors has approved standards and measures for its comprehensive wellness accreditation program, which will measure how effective these programs are at promoting health, preventing chronic disease and reducing health risks. URAC will begin accrediting the first companies in December and release an accreditation guide in March 2009, said a spokeswoman for the agency.
Developed by an advisory group of employers, health plans, consumer representatives, public benefits organizations, wellness companies, healthcare associations and providers, the standards fall into five categories: assessment, interventions, evaluation, integration and measurement.
Over the growth cycle of many years, wellness programs have evolved and matured to become a critical component of employer and health plan benefits, Douglas Metz, chairman of URACs wellness accreditation advisory committee, said in a news release. High quality and effective wellness programs hold tremendous potential to reduce health risks, lower healthcare costs, and increase productivity. URACs comprehensive wellness accreditation standards define an industry-accepted baseline for quality standards.
URAC cited an October 2007 report from the Society for Human Resource Management that said 86% of U.S. employers currently offer wellness programs to their employees. (Learn more about wellness programs.) -- by Jessica Zigmond