The Employee Health Program Code of Conduct: Programs Should Do No Harm

As wellness programs and strategies continue to evolve, some things should remain constant. By intent, all wellness programs should be designed in a way to improve health and do no harm. While it sounds simple, there is emerging research and evidence to suggest that some practices employed by the wellness industry may actually be doing the opposite, placing employees in situations that are more harmful than beneficial to their health.  Excessive penalties for non-participation, screening outside a frequency defined by national guidelines, or providing programs that result in weight cycling are a few examples of practices that can, not only do physical harm, but could also have serious psychological and financial consequences that undermine the good work for which our programs were designed.

There are incredible vendors in the wellness space that provide products and services that adhere to a do no harm philosophy. This sparked a discussion among four industry leaders about developing a code of conduct and industry promise to continue to improve peoples’ lives at work. Having collectively worked with thousands of organizations on their wellness strategies, Ryan Picarella, Al Lewis, Rosie Ward and Jon Robison collaborated to define a minimum set of standards that will help us live up to the expectation that employees and employers have for wellness programs. In this rapidly growing time for our industry, it is timely to set a standard that ensures we continue to innovate in a way that makes employees happy, healthy and hopeful.

We propose the following Industry Code of Conduct for wellness programs that employers, vendors and consultants consider adopting. Is something significantly missing? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Employee Health Program Code of Conduct:  Programs Should Do No Harm

Our organization resolves that its program should do no harm to employee health, corporate integrity or employee/employer finances. Instead we will endeavor to support employee well-being for our customers, their employees and all program constituents.

Employee Benefits and Harm Avoidance

Our organization will recommend doing programs with/for employees rather than to them, and will focus on promoting well-being and avoiding bad health outcomes. Our choices and frequencies of screenings are consistent with United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), CDC guidelines, and Choosing Wisely.

Our relevant staff will understand USPSTF guidelines, employee harm avoidance, wellness-sensitive medical event measurement, and outcomes analysis.

Employees will not be singled out, fined, or embarrassed for their health status.

Respect for Corporate Integrity and Employee Privacy

We will not share employee-identifiable data with employers and will ensure that all protected health information (PHI) adheres to HIPAA regulations and any other applicable laws.

Commitment to Valid Outcomes Measurement

Our contractual language and outcomes reporting will be transparent and plausible. All research limitations (e.g., “participants vs. non-participants” or the “natural flow of risk” or ignoring dropouts) and methodology will be fully disclosed, sourced, and readily available.