Worksite Wellness and The RDN-Why You Should Be Running the Show!

I wrote this piece for the SCAN DPG.  Dietitian in wellness?  Read this.  

It’s hard not to get behind a worksite wellness program. Programs promote health, and wellness in employees and increase company morale. The landscape of corporate wellness has changed greatly over the past 15 years.   In 2010, 74% of employers offering health care benefits also sponsored at least one wellness program.(1) What was once considered something that appealed to new recruits has now become a strategic priority for most companies. Offering wellness programs is not only the right thing to do for employees’ health (2) but it is the right thing to do financially. Richard Easley, senior benefits consultant at Hay Group, a global HR management consultancy firm says, “The companies that get proactive about implementing relevant wellness programs are the ones that are going to attract and retain the best talent, keep them healthy and productive and lower their overall health care costs.”

In the early onset of wellness programs, you found an exhausted HR employee planning health fairs and organizing teams for community runs. Participation based programs boost morale but as healthcare changed, companies knew they needed to make a change too. Insert outcomes based programs and a dedicated wellness leader, like a RDN. Comprehensive wellness programs include health assessments, biometric screenings, risk identification, activity challenges, health management workshops, integrated technology platforms and incentive management. Outcomes based programs not only hold employees (and in some cases spouses) accountable for their health, but employers have the data to see biometric improvements. Many outcomes based programs can show data improvements not only with biometric data, but with other claims such as ER visits, lower hospital admission rates, better management of chronic diseases, and lower pharmacy costs. Studies confirm the effectiveness of workplace interventions like promoting wellness, healthy eating, and physical activity partnered with motivational interviewing and rewards (3). Who better to lead these initiatives than a dietitian?

In addition to promoting health and boosting morale, wellness programs are in place to prevent illness. At the core of every wellness program is nutrition and physical activity (4). With nutrition being a critical element in any wellness program, it is imperative to have a RDN in place to design, develop and implement validated wellness programs.(5) At this time, there is no standard requirement/certification for wellness program managers/directors (6). We know that RDNs can provide MNT that is not only cost effective but also positively impacts physical and biometric measures (7). In addition to offering MNT, RDNs can be trained in motivational interviewing, health coaching, communication, marketing, behavior change, physical activity, and more. By focusing on health outcomes, program coordinators (RDNs) can develop and facilitate behavior change programs such as stress management, weight management, smoking cessation, and emotional wellbeing. RDNs are the total package.

Every team performs better with a coach. Health coaching is essential for a successful wellness program. Dietitians are not only qualified to coach, but also can “train the trainer”. Coaching provides sustainable evidence based healthy behavior changes through positive psychology and motivational interviewing practices. While new technologies continue to evolve such as gaming, wearable fitness trackers and health challenges; face-to-face interactions, like health coaching, are not going away. (8)

There is no time like the present to get involved with corporate wellness. 50% of companies expect to make changes to their health wellness offerings and or add wellness incentives in 2016 or 2017. (9)


  1. Kaiser Family Foundation, Employer Health Benefits: 2010 Annual Survey. The Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, CA; Health Research & Educational Trust, Chicago, Ill: 2010.
  2. John C. White, Stephen Hartley, Ronald J. Ozminkowski Association Between Corporate Wellness Program Participation and Changes in Health Risks, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2015; 57: 1119-1126
  3. Hutchinson AD, Wilson C. Improving nutrition and physical activity in the workplace: a meta-analysis of intervention studies. Health Promot Int. 2012; 27: 238-249
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National prevention strategy: America’s plan for better health and wellness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website: Published June 16, 2011.
  5. Mincher, Jeanine L., Leson, Suzanne M. Worksite Wellness: An Ideal Career Option for Nutrition and Dietetics Practitioners, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2014; 114: 1895-1901
  6. Mattke S, Schnyer C, VanBusum KR. The Worksite Alliance: A review of the US workplace wellness market. July 2012: 1-46. Http://
  7. Leachman-Siawson D, Fitzgerald N, Morgan K. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Position Paper: The role of nutrition in health promotion and chronic disease prevention. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012;11(7):972-979
  8. Optum, Creating a healthy, high-performing workforce: 6th Annual Wellness in the Workplace Study, (April 2015). Retrieved from
  9. Wells Fargo, Employees Benefit Outlook 2016;


Corporate Dietitian Tool box:

AND and DPGs like CV Wellness

Onsite health coaches

Onsite employee health nurses

Biometric screening

Health assessments

Flu shots


Tobacco cessation program

Weight management program

Diabetes education program

Employee assistance program

Prenatal/postnatal program

Ergonomics program

Onsite fitness centers

Activity challenges

Healthy café options

Wellness committee

Data collection

Mobile apps