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Corporate well-being in UAE: Successful return on investment

Following a successful smoking cessation programme held at the UAE offices of one of our clients — where 71 percent of participants gave up the habit and have stuck with it — we were asked to co-create a second wellness programme. The client’s human resources (HR) leader wanted to capitalise on the interest of their employees for initiatives to help them improve their health and well-being.

The benefits of workplace wellness

This Dubai-based client is not alone in their belief that:

  • An engaged workforce makes the office a happier place and can help differentiate the organisation among their competitors
  • A healthier workforce has a positive impact on the business (resulting in reduced stress and absenteeism, for example)
  • A healthier workforce could positively impact the organisation’s medical spend

Tackling behaviours through mindful eating

After consulting with the client, we created a two-month well-being programme. The programme was co-sponsored by our client’s HR function and one of our key intermediary partners in the region. The initiative was designed to help individuals achieve their weight loss, cholesterol and blood sugar health goals.

Aetna conceptualised the program and also hosted multiple group discussions on mindful eating. Dr Charushila Thadani, Director Health Services at Aetna International said: “The topic of mindful eating was chosen due to the relationship between emotional eating and the risk of developing other eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa. There is also a clear correlation between overeating and conditions such as adult onset diabetes. Left unchecked, eating disorders and non-communicable diseases can have a significant negative impact on an individual’s health. In turn, impacting their quality of life and productivity.”

The experience and the results

Of the 230 people who signed up to take part, more than 120 people completed the two-month challenge.

The programme involved an introduction to mindfulness, mindful eating and education on the complex relationship between mental health and food. During the programme:

  • Employees attended a presentation, answered a questionnaire/self-assessment, received behavioural techniques for combatting negative behaviours.
  • Employees received individual support, coaching and educational materials.

At the end of the programme, those who achieved the most significant results received valuable prizes such as an Apple watch.

The results:

  • 71 percent of the programme’s participants had reached their weight loss target
  • 51 percent of people reduced their waist circumference
  • 13 percent of people achieved lower blood sugar levels and
  • 31 percent of people achieved a lower cholesterol reading

The journey towards a healthy workplace

Dr Charushila Thadani, Director, Health Services Europe, Middle East and Africa at Aetna International, said: “This programme is a great example of the corporate wellness results that can be achieved when everyone pulls together. All parties — from the payer to the employer — have a responsibility to look after the people we serve. People often need support when it comes to achieving their health goals and making good lifestyle choices.

“We’re here to partner with our clients where we can to help them embed health and wellness into corporate culture for the benefit of their employees — but we can’t do it alone. We’re very pleased with the results we’ve achieved when running our well-being programmes. We welcome the opportunity to work with our other clients, sharing our clinical expertise and programme frameworks to deliver health outcomes that benefit employees and their employers. It’s all part of our mission to build healthier communities around the world.”

A marathon, not a sprint

Following the success of the smoking cessation and mindful eating initiatives, the client’s HR leader commented: “We’re very satisfied with the results of both programmes. The feedback I have received regarding Sunday’s mindful eating session was extremely positive! Our organisation is on a journey and for me, corporate health and wellness programmes are an important feature. We’re looking into more low-cost, high value approaches for the future. I want to continue to build on what we have achieved to date and offer more. Since the programme, we’ve launched a couple of sports clubs and will be participating in more sporting events as an organisation.”

To start a conversation about the ways in which Aetna International can help your organisation improve the health and wellness of your workforce, contact your regional account manager.

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