Genetic tests for workers could be key to successful office wellness programs

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Aprillia Jeffries is a model success story for her company’s efforts at improving the health of its staff. Jeffries, who works at Aetna, has lost 50 pounds and dropped eight dress sizes in the last 2 1/2 years through a program at Aetna run by Newtopia, a company that provides wellness services.

She has access to one-on-one coaching and a personalized diet and exercise regimen, but Jeffries, 46, credits her stellar results to a DNA test offered as part of the program.

“I had tried so many other things that were not so successful for me: Weight Watchers, exercise, making myself a promise that I’m going to eat right,” she said. A mental switch finally flipped when Jeffries’s DNA test indicated she had some genetic predisposition to being overweight. “It wasn’t all me that was the problem,” she said.

Employers have poured money into wellness programs, hoping to reduce health insurance costs. More than two-thirds of organizations have some sort of health or fitness offering, from health screening assessments to in-office exercise classes. Companies spent a record $693 per head on wellness initiatives last year, up from $594 the year before.

Newtopia, which costs $500 per head, has had encouraging results at Aetna. Of 445 employees who enrolled in the program as part of a three-year study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in December, about 50 percent remained “engaged” a year later, according to Aetna.

Read full, original post: How testing workers’ genes could make office wellness programs work

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