An alternative to for-profit corporate wellness programs is available through Sharp Health Plan, a wholly owned unit of Sharp HealthCare that operates as an independent nonprofit organization.

The locally based commercial health plan that provides insurance coverage to employers can connect members to a network of physicians in the Sharp HealthCare system and to contracted providers at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and Palomar Health.

Employees of companies enrolled in Sharp Health Plan have access to “Best Health,” a program started four years ago that includes health coaching and online tools as well as a guide to community based resources and classes. Serving small, medium and large companies, Best Health offerings encompass health risk assessments and biometric screenings to assess blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, body mass index and tobacco use. People identified in the high-risk categories are typically connected to their primary care physician.

Michael Byrd, chief business development officer for Sharp Health Plan, said the health coaching component is done predominantly over the phone by appointment. Participants are connected to a personal health coach and address such things as weight management, smoking cessation, nutrition, exercise and stress management.

The online programs fit with activities such as work site health challenges. Byrd said one company divided into three teams and coordinated a physical activity challenge to see which group could achieve the most minutes of physical activity on average. Participants became more physically active as they competed to log the most minutes of activity online.

Byrd said fees may be charged to cover the labor intensive costs associated with work site activities, but generally the costs are included with enrollment in Sharp Health Plan.

“We see Best Health as an important part of helping businesses keep their workforce healthy,” he said. “If they are part of Sharp Health Plan there is no charge for the wellness program. There’s a nominal charge for biometric screenings, but the health coaching and tools and resources of Best Health come included.”

Engaging employees in wellness can be a challenge, but Sharp helps employers market the wellness program internally to employees with out-of-the-box communication pieces that focus on promoting the website, health coaching program and work site competitions such as step challenges.

And they can offer assistance with setting up wellness committees to give employees a sense of ownership.

“The employees provide their thoughts and ideas and help implement the strategies they come up with,” he said.