The Vow

A Simple Code of Conduct for Wellness Programs

We now have enough regulations on the subject of employer wellness programs to make your head spin. EEOC recently released final regs for wellness programs to comply with the ADA, GINA, and ACA. Some in the wellness industry complain that it’s too hard now to penalize people with chronic diseases for failing to make themselves healthy. Others recommend embracing the new rules.

But the most encouraging development is a code of conduct based on a simple premise: act purely to improve health and do no harm.

The folks who developed this code – Ryan Picarella, Al Lewis, Rosie Ward, and Jon Robison – applied deep knowledge of the good and the harm that employer wellness programs can do. While others fight over the fine points, this code brings us back to the big picture with a few key principles:

  • Wellness programs should work for the benefit of employees.
  • Programs should not single out, fine, or embarrass employees for their health status.
  • Employers should respect and protect employee privacy.
  • Employers should measure and report program outcomes honestly.

If those considerations seem obvious, it’s because they are. And yet we have examples of “wellness” that have disrespected, humiliated, and financially exploited employees. Sometimes it’s been done out of ignorance. Sometimes it’s a subterfuge for cost shifting to people with chronic diseases – health problems that nobody wants to have.

This simple code has the potential to discourage bad actors who have tarnished the reputation of employee health and wellness programs. It’s time for them to fold up their tents and move on to their next scams.

It’s time to close the door on people who would misuse these programs to discriminate against people with obesity and other chronic diseases.

Take a few minutes and read the code here. If you agree, give it a thumbs up. If you see room for improvement, offer that, too.

The Vow, painting by Nikolaos Gyzis / WikiArt

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August 21, 2016

4 Responses to “A Simple Code of Conduct for Wellness Programs”

  1. August 21, 2016 at 6:28 am, Al Lewis said:

    So far the response has been great. Our goal is to end institutionalized corporate fat-shaming — meaning, of course, “pry,poke and prod” wellness programs. Incredible, the corrupt wellness industry leaders just gave an award to Wellsteps, for a program that literally made Boise’s employees worse. But Wellsteps is on the Awards Committee, making the health of employees irrelevant. It’s all about money.

    If you agree that wellness vendors are going too far, please push this code around as much as possible. And signal your revulsion at the idea that a vendor could win an award for harming employees.

    • August 21, 2016 at 6:32 am, Ted said:

      Thanks, Al. And thanks for the good work you’re doing to raise the bar for integrity in employer wellness programs.

  2. August 22, 2016 at 11:23 am, Allen Browne said:


    This “hit’s the nail on the head”.

    Thank you and thanks to the authors.


    • August 22, 2016 at 2:21 pm, Ted said:

      Agree. Thanks!!!!!