OIG Releases Advisory Regarding the City’s Wellness Program

OIG Releases Advisory Regarding the City’s Wellness Program

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released an advisory regarding Chicago Lives Healthy, the City’s employee wellness program. The advisory finds that the City is spending over $3 million annually on the wellness program contract with American Healthways Services, LLC, but does not track or measure the program’s performance and benefits in a way that sheds light on whether the program is meeting the City’s goal.

Research attempting to measure whether wellness programs deliver a return on investment or health improvements has yielded mixed results. The advisory suggests that, if Chicago Lives Healthy is renewed for 2016, the City establish a performance measurement framework for the program. Without such a framework, the City cannot make evidence-based, cost-benefit decisions about the future of Chicago Lives Healthy.

The City has declined to make any changes to the way it measures the program. In its written response, the City explains that it will continue to monitor Chicago Lives Healthy as it has done in the past.

“Chicago Lives Healthy is an admirable first attempt by the City to promote improvements in employee health. However, there are serious questions as to whether the program is achieving any demonstrable benefits and if it will ever do so,” said Inspector General Joseph Ferguson. “The uncertainty surrounding the effectiveness of this and other employee wellness programs makes it critical that the City use the data and lessons gleaned from the first two years of the program either to set and track explicit goals tailored to measurable, targeted policy objectives or allow the current multi-million dollar contract to sunset at the end of fiscal year 2015 and until such time as the City can identify measurable expectations and outcomes. In light of the current fiscal challenges, the City—however well-intentioned—simply cannot afford to invest in programs that have no discernable impact.”

The full report and City’s response can be found online at the OIG website: http://bit.ly/WellProg.

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