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Companies Can Motivate Families to Live Healthier
Date:10/4/2010

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Oct. 4 (HealthDay News) -- A small cash incentive from an employer might be enough to prompt healthy lifestyle changes in families, new research sUggests.

IBM offered its employees $150 to participate in a 12-week program where they were given a list of health-promoting activities to choose from -- such as adding more vegetables to the family diet, exercising more as a family and reducing family TV and computer time -- and found that more than 50 percent of the employees who chose to participate in the project completed the program.

"I think this program was likely successful because once these activities were pointed out to the employees, they probably felt like it was a no-brainer. They could make their families healthier and receive the incentive," said study senior author Dee Edington, director of the University of Michigan Health Management Research Center in Ann Arbor.

"Employers spend a lot of time thinking about how to get their employees healthy, and while the employee is an important factor, what about the family? When you have a sick child, you also have a sick employee. So, if you're going to have a healthy culture, you need to think about having healthy families as well," he said.

Results of the study were released online Oct. 4 and are scheduled to appear in the November issue of Pediatrics.

In the United States, IBM has more than 40,000 employees, and those employees have more than 80,000 children insured by IBM's health insurance plans. In 2008, the company offered its U.S. employees with children between the ages of 2 and 18 a chance to participate in the "Children's Health Rebate" program.

More than 22,000 employees enrolled in the program. It was designed to get families to choose certain family-focused activities to do for 12 weeks. There were four main areas of concentration, including: healthy family meal engagement,
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