Family wellness programs effective: study

Employer wellness programs that focus on healthy behaviors for the entire family may be effective in improving the health of both employees and their children, suggests a study from the University of Michigan Health Management Research Center in Ann Arbor.

In 2008, more than 11,000 employees at Somers, NY-based IBM Corp. participated in a voluntary wellness program with their families. Participants were offered a $150 cash incentive for instituting family goals of their choosing throughout the 12-week program. Goal options included limiting fast food to no more than once per week, walking children to school at least once per week, limiting video game play to no more than 30 minutes per day and involving children in meal preparation at least once per week.

At the end of the program, researchers found that participants' physical activity levels increased by 17.1 percent and eating healthy dinners five nights a week increased 11.8 percent.

The study was published in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics.

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