Case Study: City Worksite Wellness Program

Ideas to Improve Your Wellness Program

wellness -program-case-studyAustin, Texas: I read about a wellness program in my home city of Austin, Texas that the CDC had written up a while back, and I think it is well worth reading again.

The wellness program was called Steps to a Healthier Austin and was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement chronic disease prevention and health promotion activities for Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro), Austin’s  transit authority.

This wellness program was effctive because it reached the employees in many ways:

1) Cash Incentives:  Cash incentives have also been a key part of the success of the employee wellness program. Cash incentives are provided if any of the following occurs:

  • Blood pressure drops to 120/80 mm Hg or lower.
  • Fasting plasma glucose drops to below 100 mg/dL (employees without diabetes) or 126 mg/dL (employees with diabetes).
  • Total cholesterol drops to below 200 mg/dL.
  • Body fat decreases by 3% or more in 6 months.
  • The employee loses 10% of his initial weight.
  • VO2 max increases by 5 mL/kg/min in 6 months.
  • Cash incenitves for joining weight-loss programs, for sustaining use of the on-site gym, and for achieving other health-related goals, such as participation in races and stopping smoking.

2) Improved access to healthy food: Capital Metro now provides what it calls its Healthy Options Cafe. Employees are given weekly discount coupons to purchase healthy cafeteria items; $5 worth of coupons are available each week for each Capital Metro employee and contractor. Capital Metro also instituted a healthy vending contract and stipulated that 60% of offerings had to be healthy choices, and healthy options are cheaper than less healthy options. No snacks can be “value sized,” and all snacks must contain less than 5 g fat (nuts and seeds exempt) and less than 30 g carbohydrate (fruit exempt). Beverage choices are 25% water or sports drinks, 25% fruit juices, 25% low-calorie soft drinks, and 25% regular soft drinks.

3) On-site Weight Watchers classes:  Employees are reimbursed up to $180 for the cost of the program if they lose 10% of their initial weight and if they attend 85% of meetings during a specified time period. In addition, employees earn $75 for losing 10% of their initial body weight, $125 for reaching their goal weight, $200 for maintaining their goal weight for 6 months, and an additional $200 each year the weight is maintained for up to 5 years.

4) Smoking and Tobacco-cessation component:  Employees receive up to $100 in reimbursement for over-the-counter nicotine replacement products, and they can earn $250 for every year they remain tobacco-free for up to 5 years.

5) Wellness Reminder-such as a wellness calendar and newsletter: The monthly calendar details health-related events and highlights health topics related to the national health calendar, with an emphasis on disease prevention. Additional promotions (educational programs, awareness campaigns, newsletters) are planned throughout the year relevant to diseases that are prevalent among the employee population.

6) Health Promotion Events: Cap Metro offered on-site include health screenings, educational programs, cooking demonstrations with the Sustainable Food Center (Steps to a Healthier Austin’s partner), chair massages, and stretching sessions. Employee health screenings are held throughout the year and include ultrasound stroke screening, vision and hearing screenings, mammograms, and glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure testing. Screenings are offered at no charge.

These steps showed the commitment that CapMetro put into their wellness program–which is why the program was so successful




It’s as simple as that to run a successful wellness program.

What can you do to enhance and improve your wellness program?

Here’s to a healthier workforce!


Robert Piller is President of, a leading provider of custom-printed promotional items geared exclusively for wellness programs and wellness incentives. These branded gifts are ideal for wellness incentive rewards, wellness kickoff or announcement gifts or as wellness reminders. Visit to view thousands of wellness rewards and reminders in all price points-including over 800 different promotional pedometer styles in all price ranges.

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