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As the overall health and wellness of our nation declines and health care costs continue to rise, Aetna has embraced the philosophy of wellness as a lifelong journey to optimal health. Wellness means considering the whole person, including his/her physical, mental, emotional and financial well-being. Wellness shifts the lens on health care. Health care is no longer just something to be received, it is something to be sought and assessed with the same degree of knowledge and attention we might apply to any major purchase. This shift requires new behavior at an individual level. That's why our approach to wellness broadly applies medical-management concepts in programs and services that can vary as much as an individual's own health situation.

In 2008, Aetna stepped up our focus on prevention and wellness by enhancing our programs to help members take charge of their health in new ways. Our programs include everything from online tools and resources to having a personalized lifestyle coach help members set goals; from completing a health assessment on our Simple Steps To A Healthier Life® tool to complete care management for those with chronic conditions.

While medical management principles provide the foundation for these programs, our own experience as an employer is contributing an increasingly important perspective on how to apply these principles in the workplace. We are in the third year of a wellness-centered workplace strategy called Aetna Wellness WorksSM. Components of this program include free health-risk assessments, web-based tools and resources, health screenings, and a popular 16-week fitness challenge in which employees form their own teams. These programs have garnered external recognition and significant interest from our plan sponsors. The best recognition, however, comes from employees themselves, many of whom have shared personal stories about how a wellness program changed their lives.

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