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Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention

Worksite Wellness Newsletter
April 2010

Helping Businesses See the Value of Employee Wellness Programs
In today’s economic downturn, companies are doing everything they can to get ahead and maximize their profits. Many are working hard just to stay in business. Needless to say, the health of their employees is not a primary concern to them. So how do we in health promotion offer wellness programs as a solution in such an economical climate?

Getting business leaders to buy into the idea of wellness is a daunting, but surmountable task. A close look at worksite wellness reveals that it is a means to bridge the gap between business and health. But how do health and wellness professionals convey this message to employers? Speak the language they understand: money.

There are four major reasons why a company should invest in a worksite wellness program:

  1. Rising health care costs.
    It is a well-known fact that health care is becoming more and more expensive. One major factor contributing to this trend is increased health care utilization. With employer contributions to health care costs on the rise, companies are increasingly becoming concerned. A study by Mercer HR Consulting showed that total health care benefit cost per employee doubled from $3,653 in 1994 to $7,089 in 2004.
  2. Poor health affects productivity and profits.
    It is not just sick leave (absenteeism) that tells the story. Employees who come to work ill (presenteesim) are not as productive. Other effects of poor health on overall productivity include medical leave, disability and employee turnover due to medical illness.
  3. Significant economic return.
    Employee wellness programs have been able to demonstrate significant economic return, averaging about $3-6 for every $1 invested in health cost savings. Other employer costs that can also benefit from wellness programs include reduced short- and long-term disability, and workman’s compensation claims.
  4. Recruitment and retention.
    Business leaders that invest in a worksite wellness program demonstrate that they are concerned about their employees. In turn, employees feel a sense of commitment to the company. Wellness programs not only improve the health of employees, but also increase employee morale. They can also help with recruitment efforts and increase retention and reduce turnover.

Worksite wellness is a health promotion approach to helping businesses do better business. Since healthier employees are more productive, the company stands to gain significantly in both cost savings and profit by implementing a wellness program. As health promoters and wellness professionals, our role is to help businesses make the connection between health and business.

Making Wellness a Company Priority
Improving and maintaining the health of their employees should be a priority for all businesses. Though many companies may not openly declare that they are concerned about the health of their employees, concerns about health care costs and productivity reflect the underlying need to make wellness a priority. There are steps a company, irrespective of size, location or industry, can take to foster and promote health.

Policies
Whether written or informal, policies are the rules governing an organization or jurisdiction. They tell us what is permissible or not, and generally have consequences attached to them. They indirectly speak of behaviors and actions that are acceptable in a society. In the same way, policies can be used to assess how strong a company’s stance is on wellness. Some examples of such policies include:

  • Healthy food policy requiring that only healthy foods that are low in fat, low in sodium, and high in fiber be served at meetings and company functions.
  • Office exercisePolicy that allows for employer-subsidized gym memberships.

Environment
The physical plant of the worksite can also be modified to demonstrate that wellness is a company priority. Changes to building design or structure to support healthy behavior need not be extensive or expensive. Three simple examples are:

  • Healthy snack options can be provided in vending machines and designated with color-coded stickers.
  • Walking trails can either be built or marked off with stickers, ribbons, chalk, etc. so employees can have a safe place to walk.
  • Removing ashtrays completely off the worksite or away from building entrances to a designated smoking area.

Office Culture
The American Heritage Dictionary defines culture as “the predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.” A culture of wellness in a particular worksite would make healthy behaviors acceptable norms for all employees. Here are some ways a company can promote a fruitculture of wellness:

  • Fruit bowls instead of candy jars. Offer items like bananas, dried fruit and nuts.
  • Incorporate stretch/fitness breaks into meetings, particularly those lasting more than 2 hours.
  • Organize a “wear your sneakers at work day” to encourage employees to walk.

Company Resources
What better way to make employee wellness a priority than to invest company resources in an effort to encourage employees to be healthy? Money is the big one, but not the only resource. Consider the following:

  • A wellness budget that includes incentives for participation in wellness activities. 
  • Wellness person to coordinate a program for employees.
  • company sponsored wellness activitiesPutting together a wellness team and allowing employees the time to participate.

In order to have a profitable and competitive company, business leaders must address the health of their employees. It doesn’t take a huge sum of money to make a worksite a healthy one. The main key is leadership commitment to make wellness a company priority. (Source: Beatrice Olanihun for Georgia's Worksite Health Initiative)

National Start! Walking Day
National Start! Walking Day is a nationwide call to action by the American Heart Association for Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles. Your company can help employees take the first step in becoming more active by participating. Join thousands across the nation and South Carolina as they wear their sneakers on this special day and pledge to start a healthier lifestyle as part of this annual event. Event dates for South Carolina are listed below:

Heart Walk 2009-2010 The Low Country      Bluffton, SC              April 10, 2010
Heart Walk 2009-2010 Lowcountry               Charleston, SC            September 25, 2010

How Can My Company Get Involved?
The concept is simple. Begin by inviting your employees to wear their sneakers to work on National Start! Walking Day. Then promote participation by using the tools in your National Start! Walking Day packet. Encourage employees to make healthy lifestyle choices to walk more, eat well and live longer. National Start! Walking Day is a great way to highlight your existing workplace wellness initiatives or kick off a new program.

National Workplace Wellness Week (April 4-10, 2010)
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution on Sept. 26, 2008, that designates the first full week of April as “National Workplace Wellness Week.”  Initiated by the American Heart Association and introduced by Reps. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) and Charles Boustany (R-LA), the week serves to encourage private and public employers across the country to invest in the health of their employees by creating worksite wellness programs and to share their best practices with other employers.
This year the American Heart Association’s National Start! Walking Day will take place during “National Workplace Wellness Week.” National Start! Walking Day aims to get Americans up and moving for 30 minutes on April 7, 2010.

More Information

APRIL

  • employee cooling down after exercisingAlcohol Awareness Month
    SAMHSA's Health Information Network
    ncadi.samhsa.gov/seasonal/aprilalcohol/

    National Cancer Control Month

    American Cancer Society
    www.cancer.org 
  • National Minority Health Awareness Month
    Office of Minority Health
    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    (800) 444-6472
    www.omhrc.gov
  • National Donate Life Month
    Division of Transplantation, Healthcare Systems Bureau
    Health Resources and Services Administration
    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    (888) 275-4772
    www.organdonor.gov/get_involved/donateli
    femonth.htm

  • National Public Health Week – April 5th – 11th
    American Public Health Association
    (202) 777-2509
    www.nphw.org  

MAY

  • American Stroke Month
    American Heart Association
    (800) 242-8721
    www.americanheart.org
  • Healthy Vision Month
    National Eye Institute
    National Institutes of Health
    (301) 496-5248
    www.healthyvision2010.nei.nih.gov/hvm
  • National Arthritis Awareness Month
    Arthritis Foundation
    (800) 283-7800
    www.arthritis.org 
  • National Physical Fitness and Sports Month
    President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
    (202) 690-9000
    www.fitness.gov
  • Lupus Awareness Month
    Lupus Foundation of America, Inc.
    (888) 385-8787
    www.lupus.org 
  • National High Blood Pressure Education Month
    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Health Information Center
    (301) 592-8573
    www.nhlbi.nih.gov
  • National Women’s Health Week-May 9th – 15th
    US DHHS - Office on Women's Health
    (800) 994-9662
    www.womenshealth.gov/whw
  • National Employee Health and Fitness Day-May 9th
    National Association for Health and Fitness
    (716) 583-0521
    (716) 851-4052
    physicalfitness.org/nehf.html 

JUNE

S.C. Healthy Worksite Initiatives
The goal of South Carolina’s Worksite Initiative is to reduce the burden of chronic diseases in workplaces by providing resources to initiate wellness programs, improve employee health promotion, and advocate for policies that support environmental and policy change in S.C. worksites. More information on this initiative and the S.C. DHEC Bureau of Community Health and Chronic Disease Prevention is available at:
www.scdhec.gov/health/chcdp/cvh/worksite.htm

Resource Corner

  • American Heart Association Start!
    The program promotes healthier lifestyles with options to help get your workers up and moving by encouraging employers to set up walking routes that can motivate employees to walk around the office. It’s easy, free, and celebrates the many health benefits of simply walking! 
    www.startwalkingnow.org/
  • CDC Healthy Worksite Initiative (HWI)
    The CDC Healthy Worksite initiative is designed for workforce health promotion program planners in state and federal government. Planners at non-government workplaces may also find this Web site useful in generating ideas for workforce health promotion in your organization. Here you will find information, resources and step-by-step toolkits to help you improve the health of your employees.
    www.cdc.gov/hwi
  • CDC LeanWorks!
    The CDC LeanWorks! initiative is a free Web-based resource that offers interactive tools and evidence-based resources to design effective worksite obesity prevention and control programs. One such resource is an obesity cost calculator to estimate how much obesity is costing your company, and how much savings your company could reap with different workplace interventions.
    www.cdc.gov/leanworks/index.htm
  • Eat Smart Move More SC (ESMM SC)
    The ESMM SC coordinates obesity efforts across the state through collaboration between state agencies, business and industry, health care organizations, schools, community–based groups and coalitions to capitalize and leverage differing areas of skill and resources to impact obesity in South Carolina.
    www.eatsmartmovemoresc.org
  • Wellness Council of America (WELCOA)
    The Wellness Council of America is dedicated to helping organizations of all sizes build and sustain results oriented-wellness programs. With a membership in excess of 3,200 organizations, WELCOA is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of all working Americans. Free resources and training are available.
    welcoa.org 

Worksite Wellness News
Tell us what you are doing at your worksite. Share success stories and accomplishments. It can spark an idea for someone else. Send your submission to robinstm@dhec.sc.gov

Contact Information
Teresa M. Robinson, MBA
Worksite Coordinator
Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Division
(803) 545-4499
robinstm@dhec.sc.gov
www.scdhec.gov/hdsp