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Massachusetts and WHP Programs for Smaller Employers

We’ve all seen the sobering figures on the health issues faced by American working adults. Obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are just a few of these problems. Some employers recognize their role in providing workplace policies and practices that advance health and wellbeing and are providing worksite health promotion (WHP) programs which include that goal.

The good news is that 19 states have even initiated efforts to encourage the implementation of these programs. The bad news is that employers with less than 200 employees are roughly half as likely to implement WHP programs as those with more than 200 workers. Smaller employers often lack the funds and qualified human resources to implement WHP programs. 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a history of supporting workplace wellness initiatives. In 2008, the state launched “Mass in Motion,” a multi-sector, statewide obesity prevention initiative designed to help create conditions for healthy living in the places where people live, learn, work and play. One component of Mass in Motion was a pilot worksite wellness capacity-building program called “Working on Wellness” (WoW).

The goals of WoW are to:

  • Increase the number of workplaces that have identified an on-site worksite wellness sponsor, champion, and team to formulate, implement and evaluate a Worksite Wellness Action Plan.
  • Increase the number of workplaces that have a documented strategic plan for their WHP program.
  • Increase the number of employers implementing policies and environmental changes that support healthy behaviors.
  • Increase the number of new collaborations between employers and community organizations.
  • Increase the proportion of employees within each participating workplace who:
    • Have knowledge and skills for healthy behavior choices
    • Participate in worksite education and behavior change programs
    • Participate in designing solutions in the workplace to address identified health concerns

To maximize the opportunities for small employers in the state, the eligibility criteria for WoW were intentionally aligned with that of the Small Business Wellness Tax Credit program.

A team of nine researchers including Mari Ryan, who is the CEO and founder of Advancing Wellness, are evaluating WoW and have written a whitepaper further detailing what they will look at in their study. Key evaluation questions are the success of WoW in recruiting small and mid-size employers; the extent to which it achieves the above goals; and understanding the needs of smaller employers and industries not traditionally implementing employee wellness programs.

WELCOA Members and friends of WELCOA can download this white paper, which is part of Mari Ryan’s WELCOA Member training that will be hosted on Wednesday, October 09, 2019 at 10AM CT. This Member benefit, one of two live trainings are now open for registration. For more information on a WELCOA Membership, visit or contact Jenny Green at