Cultural Customization is Key for Population Health and Wellness

How well do you know your employee population? Many past wellness programs have been one-size fits all, but people have different needs. Personalization is the key to making your wellness programs work.

This article was originally published on the WellSource website.

The Power of a Personalized Wellness Program 

Sure, you’ve got stats on age, ethnicity, and income. You know the neighborhoods in which they live. And you have access to claims data. But do you know what shapes their ideas about going to the doctor, their diet, preventive care, or other health and wellness habits? 

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

“Religion, culture, beliefs, and ethnic customs can influence how patients understand health concepts, how they take care of their health, and how they make decisions related to their health.” And depending on your population, there may be many different things to consider when managing your population's health. There are 7.6 billion people across 195 countries in the world, many of which have their own language and culture. Whether you’re dealing with populations domestic or abroad, it’s important to ensure that your wellness program is customized to serve your population’s diverse background. 

The Intersection of Population Health Data and Culture 

Your wellness program starts with the data you collect on your population through your health risk assessment (HRA). Because this is the first interaction your population will have with your wellness program, it’s important to ensure that it is customized for them.

The most basic yet critical piece of customization that will allow people from different cultures to engage with your HRA is language. It's important to ensure that your HRA is modified for language so that your participants can feel comfortable answering health-related questions.

Less than 10% of the world population speaks English as a first language.

Only 80% of Americans are native English speakers. So, chances are, you have some non-native English speakers in your employee population that should be considered when designing the HRA. Your employees will be more willing to participate - as well as complete the HRA - if they can read it quickly and easily. 

Culture and Lifestyle Impact on Population Health

In addition to ensuring your HRA is available in multiple languages, consider cultural factors as well. For instance, cuisines can differ drastically, sometimes even within the same country. Traditional medicines may take precedence over prescriptions. Any reference to death or dying may be considered rude or unlucky. Societal prohibitions may require you to exclude questions on alcohol consumption. Individuals may believe illness is the result of divine retribution or bad karma from a past life rather than genetics or unhealthy habits. 

While the science behind healthy living is consistent cross-culturally, you may choose to use language that will resonate with your participants in the questions asked, as well as in follow-up reports and recommendations for better health. 

The True Cost of a Customized HRA

Finding the balance of maintaining a health risk assessment that upholds evidence-based standards while considering cultural variations isn’t an easy one to strike.

If you manage a diverse group of people it is imperative that your health risk assessment is customized for each culture and language in your population. Depending on your resources, this may be no easy feat for in-house production. 

If you want your health risk assessment to be relevant to your entire population, consider outsourcing to a company that will work to customize your HRA to meet your needs while maintaining evidence-based standards.