It’s not unusual to see corporate wellness articles and employee health programs that lean more toward generalization and theory than practical application. But unless the information makes a personal connection with the target audience, they’re less likely to appreciate its importance. Reality competitions can make health promotion messages engaging and personal.

Reality shows typically go something like this: a group of people must overcome some type of challenge within a given time. Contestants meet periodically to evaluate each other’s progress. A process is in place to gradually eliminate individuals who don’t meet subjective or objective criteria. At the conclusion, an individual or team is declared the winner and gets a prize.

Competitions like these grab attention and can get employees interested in healthy behaviors by tracking the progress of teams or individuals attempting to change some lifestyle habit. Here’s how it might work:
  • Use demographics and data on employee interests/preferences to build participants and target audiences for each wellness goal.
  • Highlight a different health category each quarter. For instance, the first could be quitting smoking, the second managing weight, the third reducing back pain/stiffness, and the fourth eating healthy.
  • Establish criteria that definitively measure progress and define clinically sound, evidence-based interventions for the targeted behavior.
  • Track behavior — such as daily exercise time or fruit and vegetable consumption  to determine success. This approach is recommended instead of tracking actual health data — like pounds lost — because it helps reduce the likelihood of participants engaging in extreme or dangerous behaviors.
  • Offer a prize for the individual or group achieving the greatest level of success at the end of the allotted period.
  • Promote the reality show premise — build excitement through periodic status reports on participants’ progress in newsletter articles, videotaped interviews, live sessions during staff meetings… whatever fits the organization. In each status report, encourage volunteers to discuss feelings, obstacles, and successes. Be sure to point out healthy behaviors — such as exercise, diet changes, and stress management techniques — that contribute to their success.
While nonparticipants will surely learn from these real-life experiences, there’s an added benefit for participants: As nonparticipants become more engaged in the competition and root for their favorite teams/individuals, they become a support group for valuable reinforcement.

Original work by Kathy Cash.

Add comment