Provata Health shares results of multi-year workplace wellness program study

By Jonah Comstock

Provata Health, an Oregon-based digital health company focused on employee wellness, published findings from a multi-year study showing that Provata's Healthy Team Healthy U program reduced weight, high blood pressure, poor sleep quality, and stress among a large, diverse employee population. The study was published in the journal "Frontiers in Public Health".

The health program is a 12-session program aimed at promoting healthy nutrition, physical activity, safety, stress reduction, mood improvement, and sleep quality and quantity through goal setting, skill building, and team support. The published study looked at levels one and two of a four-level program. As part of the program, participants receive a digital pedometer at level one and exercise bands at level two. They can track their progress with a dashboard app.

Unlike some programs that target specific populations, Healthy Team Healthy U was made available to all 9,000 employees at Oregon Health and Science University employees, the organization Provata grew out of, although only 3,780 employees chose to participate and only 986 completed both pre- and post-intervention surveys.

“Making HTHU available to all employees is critical to the program’s success and counter to the current trend in the wellness industry,” Provata CEO Alex Goldberg said in a statement. “Many employees, particularly higher-risk individuals, are reluctant to enroll in a specialized wellness program that signals to their employer or their colleagues that they are unhealthy or have a certain condition. As a total health solution, individuals can participate without self-identifying as someone in need of a weight loss program, or a diabetes prevention program, or a stress program. Not only does a holistic approach encourage participation among high-risk employees, it is more outcome-effective. We are generating better results by addressing the interrelated physical and mental components of health.”

The overall outcome of the study had participants seeing an average of 4.8 percent weight reduction and an average blood pressure reduction of 8.8 systolic and 7.68 diastolic. In a statement, Goldberg pointed out that this amounts to double the weight loss outcomes of the CDC's Diabetes Prevention Program.

Provata also saw a behavioral health outcome, with program participants reporting a 46 percent increase in days per week of physical activity and twice as many strength training sessions per week. The number of individuals getting five servings per day of fruits and vegetables tripled. The program also saw a 41 percent reduction in employees reporting poor sleep quality and 32 percent fewer participants reporting work-related stress.

“The mental health of workers is an area of increasing importance to employers, yet it is rarely integrated into workplace wellness initiatives focusing on physical activity,” Dr. Kerry Kuehl, one of the researchers, said in a statement. “In addition to increased medical costs, stress and depression are major causes of absenteeism, presenteeism, and productivity losses. For instance, according to the CDC, patients with depression miss an average of 4.8 workdays and suffer 11.5 days of reduced productivity in just a three-month period.”

The study wasn't randomized, and in the published research investigators admitted that there could be a selection bias amongst employees who chose to enroll in and stick with the program. However, they did their best to control for those factors.

"Random assignment was not practical, due to the risk of contamination," researchers wrote. "A true control group not using another wellness initiative was not possible due to employee incentives offered by the employer. Despite these limitations, it did not appear that participants being assessed were different than other participants. Employees completing pre and post assessments were similar to those participants who completed the pre-measures only, with regard to biometrics and health behaviors. Likewise, employees completing the longitudinal analysis for physical measures and/or surveys were similar to those who completed the pre-assessment only. This suggests there was no differential dropout or selection bias based with regard to either pre-intervention behavior or biometric parameters."