Recently we came across a saying for how family members influence one another’s behavior: “You don’t learn it from strangers.”

Family members exert a powerful influence over each other, and it often goes without notice even when it’s obvious: a child who picks up a parent’s smoking habit or a tendency toward reckless driving.  And all parents, men and women, have experienced the weight gain that comes with having a baby, with regular feedings and encouraging the child to eat.

Yet it’s not just bad habits that get passed around. Good behavior is instructive and infectious as well.

That’s why it’s so important for family members at home to have the opportunity to be involved in workplace wellness programs. Accordingly, we try to lead the way in extending wellness to all members of the family, because it’s far easier to attain and maintain good health as a group than it is as an individual, especially within the family unit.

That family members tend to be alike is only natural common sense.  But even so the effects – where overall family health is concerned – can be startling.  Fortunately lots of obesity researchers are interested in this, and many of these have shown that when one spouse becomes obese, the other is much more likely (30% or more, in fact) to become obese as well.  Cigarette smoking in one spouse can also leads to a higher probability of smoking in the other – which can make quitting less likely.

We have always allowed employers the option of including spouses, because the benefits are clear.  Spouses support one another and inspire one another.  They amass Vitality Points together and Vitality Bucks together, so an incentive for one is an incentive for both.  In addition, those Vitality Mall hotel deals make for wonderful weekend getaways.

Including activities for family members has always been a product feature, and most recently we added a Vitality Kids HRA.  It is a tool parents complete that gives them a snapshot of their kids’ health from newborns up to 17 years old.  The questions are age-appropriate according to the age of the child, and focus on nutrition, activity and how much “screen time” a child spends in front of a TV or computer.  Parents then receive feedback based on their responses, together with some guidance for improving health, just as they did for themselves, and recommended activities, from updating immunizations to engaging in physical activity (like a soccer league, which is a point-earning activity for kids).

The main benefits to be had, however, are improved family health and wellbeing – more energy, more shared activities, and reduced healthcare costs for all.

You don’t usually learn that from strangers, either.


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