More than 50 U.S. employers were recognized recently for their efforts to promote healthy work environments and encourage workers to live healthier lifestyles. The fourth annual Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles awards were presented on May 13, 2008, at a leadership summit in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the nonprofit National Business Group on Health’s (NBGH) Institute on the Costs and Health Effects of Obesity.
"Employers are putting a much higher priority on wellness and lifestyle improvement programs that promote employee health, well-being and productivity than ever before," said NBGH President Helen Darling. "Each of the 52 employers we are honoring this year has demonstrated a commitment to the health, productivity and well-being of their employees and families.”
Chronic diseases, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease and their complications, are increasingly preventable, and largely treatable, yet they account for the vast majority of health care spending: $3 of every $4 spent on health care in the United States goes to treating the 45 percent of Americans with at least one chronic disease, according to NBGH. And that figure includes treatment only; the full economic impact of chronic diseases includes lost productivity.
To confront this challenge, the 2008 winning companies offer a wide variety of successful wellness and lifestyle improvement programs including:
- Health risk assessments.
- Financial incentives for participating in fitness programs (weight management, tobacco cessation, etc.).
- Health coaches.
- Onsite fitness and health clinics.
- Web-based health and fitness tools.
"In the long run, all of these initiatives will have long-lasting positive results for employers, workers and their families,” said LuAnn Heinen, vice president and director of the NBGH’s Institute on the Costs and Health Effects of Obesity.
Winners of the Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles awards were honored in one of three categories—platinum, gold or silver—as listed below. Description highlights are provided from the Platinum-winning programs.
Platinum winners were honored for established "Healthy Weight, Healthy Lifestyles" programs with measurable success and documented outcomes:
As part of the company’s Wellness Works program, Aetna provides worksite wellness centers and resources, online wellness programs, wellness incentives and health assessments designed to complement Aetna’s consumer-directed health care model. Aetna’s easy-to-use wellness roadmap helps employees navigate through Aetna’s wide range of wellness programs and resources—placing the employee on the road to better health. Aetna demographics, health assessment data and employee health claim data are used to prioritize program initiatives and set objectives, which complement national health goals and meet organizational needs.
• Baptist Health South Florida
An organization-wide Wellness Advantage program offers a comprehensive set of health-related employee services. From free onsite employee clinics, to an innovative weight-loss portfolio and state-of-the-art nutrition evaluation on cafeteria receipts, the Baptist Health mission is to have the healthiest workforce in America.
The company’s Healthy Life strategy educates and engages employees and their dependents in their health-related decisions, encouraging action. Consumer-directed health benefits are combined with wellness initiatives, work/life programs and targeted communications and events. Extensive online and personal support is available to assist employees at all stages of health education and planning.
The firm continually enhances care management and preventive care benefits while encouraging healthy lifestyles in exchange for reduced medical premiums and incentive dollars. Health advocates provide support and referrals for chronic and acute conditions. Health coaches address lifestyle risk factors. Employees benefit from discount fitness club memberships, an ergonomics program, wellness videos and WebMD Health Manager. Online resources aid informed choices, personalizing health management with up-to-date information—from nutrition to self-improvement.
GSK delivers health care value through a strategy of 1) prevention, 2) intervention in chronic disease, and 3) innovation to improve health. “The United States runs the risk of losing its competitive edge to the epidemic of chronic diseases,” said GSK’s Christopher Viehbacher, president-U.S. pharmaceuticals. “Employers can play a major role in developing a healthier, more competitive workforce by designing health benefits that encourage the prevention and better management of chronic diseases and their costly complications.”
• Hannaford Brothers
The program includes a healthy behavior incentive and company-wide wellness initiatives focused on achieving and maintaining the healthiest possible lifestyles. It makes nurses, dieticians and health educators available to all associates; offers a confidential employee assistance program; and promotes evidence-based care and disease management outreach. Providers of Distinction and Centers of Excellence, a tiered performance network, are part of the company’s quality care benefit design.
• Northeast Utilities
The firm's WellAware program has documented improved health outcomes and reduced costs. Its mission is to encourage employees and their families to participate voluntarily in targeted programs and services that address modifiable, lifestyle-related health risks. A philosophy of "shared responsibility" includes financial incentives for participation; employee, spouse and life partner eligibility; strong senior management support; continuing program evaluation; and continual re-design.
• Pepsi Bottling Group
PBG's "Healthy Living" program engages employees with a multimedia communication strategy, financial incentives, onsite health care professionals, and free services such as wellness assessments, clinics, screenings, a nurse line, lifestyle coaching and disease management. A Targeted Care Management initiative takes a "total person" approach to preventing and managing obesity, cardiac disease and cancer.
• Pitney Bowes
The company uses a variety of incentive-based program and educational formats to appeal to its diverse employee population. By focusing on, and in investing in, employee health—and through the utilization of data analysis, benchmarking, and program analysis—Pitney Bowes has advanced the company’s health improvement programs and achieved significant positive results in containing its health care costs.
• Texas Instruments
TI provides a full spectrum of personal health management initiatives such as education and awareness campaigns, onsite health screenings, weight management and walking programs, and subsidized onsite fitness facilities. Free preventive health benefits and medical nutrition therapy are included in the health plan benefit.
• Dow Chemical
“At Dow, we view health spending not as a cost but as an investment in our greatest asset—our people,” said Andrew Liveris, chairman and chief executive officer of Dow. Added Dr. Catherine Baase, Dow’s global director of health services, “Dow’s focus on good health and high-value health care includes elements such as prevention, quality and effectiveness, health system management and advocacy. The prevention pillar offers Dow one of the largest opportunities for long-term impact, and we are investing in prevention programs around the world. We provide on-site and community programming related to lifestyle, nutrition, physical activity, smoking cessation and stress management for employees, retirees and their families.”
• Union Pacific Railroad
The firm's HealthTrack is a comprehensive health promotion program addressing 10 risk factors including inactivity, weight, smoking, cholesterol, blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, fatigue, stress and depression. The components of the program are Risk Identification/Risk Reduction Program, Smoking Cessation Program, Know Your Numbers, Health Awareness Program, System Health Facility Program and Research Grants.
Gold winners were honored for creating cultural and environmental changes that support employees who are committed to long-term behavior changes:
- American Specialty Health.
- Bath Iron Works.
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.
- Campbell Soup.
- Erie Insurance.
- General Dynamics Electric Boat.
- General Mills.
- Mayo Clinic.
- Nationwide Mutual Insurance.
- Quest Diagnostics.
- Volvo Group (North America).
- Washington Mutual.
Silver winners were honored for launching programs or services to promote living a healthier lifestyle:
- Bear Stearns.
- Becton, Dickinson & Co.
- CVS Caremark.
- Data Recognition.
- Kraft Foods Global.
- Procter & Gamble.
- Schwan Food.
- Verizon Wireless.
Stephen Miller is manager of SHRM Online’s Compensation & Benefits Focus Area.