The program’s goal is to create “a culture of activity” that will increase productivity, reduce absenteeism, lower turnover and reduce health care costs.
It’s simple. A company can set up walking routes around the office then celebrate and reward all employees who use them to go from a sedentary lifestyle to a more active one. It’s a great way to get some fitness, take a break and become more productive all at once.
Coleman Foss, CEO of SkyRidge Medical Center and a member of the Executive Leadership Team for the American Heart Association Heart Walk, said, “Wellness initiatives have helped many of our employees. We introduced many of the tools provided in the wellness kits from the American Heart Association. These tools require very little time from an employer’s perspective, and provide great results.
“Since implementing these tools, we have seen increased weight loss, peers taking care of peers and requests to continue looking for ways to have a healthier workplace. The number of families impacted by heart disease continues to rise in Tennessee. We want to take health care out of the four walls of the hospital and positively impact the health of our community.”
According to the American Heart Association, there is no better benefit that businesses can offer employees than helping them have healthier, longer lives, whether their workplace is a school, corporation, hospital or any other type of worksite.
“The American Heart Association and SkyRidge have worked together to offer educational classes and tools at companies, as well as community events to raise awareness,” Foss said. “Awareness is the first step to effect change. Together we can reduce the number of people impacted by this disease.”
Kim Enoch with the American Heart Association said, “Tennessee has the third-highest death rate from stroke in the U.S. Tennessee has the seventh-highest death rate from heart attack in the U.S. Tennessee has the ninth-highest rate of obesity in the U.S. Tennessee has the third-highest smoking rate in the U.S., and Tennessee has the ninth-highest rate of diabetes in the U.S.
Health problems cost corporate America nearly $300 billion each year in productivity losses. The cost of treating heart disease and stroke is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2030. Fortunately, 80 percent of cardiovascular disease is preventable. Reducing just one risk factor increases productivity by 9 percent and decreases absenteeism by 2 percent.”
Since walking continues to be the single most effective type of physical activity for reducing risk factors for diseases and increasing the quality of life, the American Heart Association says walking as little as 30 minutes a day provides heart-health benefits with the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity.
Enoch added, “Poor diet and lack of exercise are responsible for at least 25 percent of health care costs incurred by working adults. Investing in the health of employees is one of the best decisions a company can make. By creating a wellness environment companies can help lower health care costs and protect their most important resource — employees. In fact, research shows that for every $1 invested in worksite wellness, companies can receive up to $3 in return.”
Dr. Jennifer Ayers, a cardiologist with Cardiology Services of Cleveland, said, “Having information about risk factors, food choices and exercise options readily available allows individuals to begin the steps to change. Providing this information in the workplace is an excellent first step in the education process. There are benefits to having a work friend as well as family members joining you in your journey to a healthier lifestyle.
“To make the transition into a healthy lifestyle easier, find a co–worker who will be committed with you to these goals. Many do not realize there are small changes that you can make that will make a huge impact on how you feel overall. For example, cutting out soft drinks, walking 10 to 15 minutes a day and adding fruits/vegetables are just some examples of small steps that will start you on your way to a heart healthy life. Your small changes can be the spark that helps your friends and families start their path to a healthier lifestyle.”
The American Heart Association recommends that companies award prizes or gift certificates to participants completing the Worksite Wellness program. Employers can ask employees to share personal success stories, make the celebration a potluck meal with participants using recipes from deliciousdecisions.org. They can also have a contest for the best recipe and offer attendees heart-healthy snacks.
With health care costs decreasing by 20 to 55 percent thanks to improved health, and short-term sick leave dropping by 6 to 32 percent, companies and employees may find the Worksite Wellness program to be good business and a win-win course for all. The American Heart Association said it would like to see 40 percent participation in the first year, then 20 percent growth each year after that.
For further information about the Worksite Wellness kit, contact Kim Enoch at the American Heart Association at 423-763-4408. A worksite wellness kit will be brought to you and a representative will discuss how it can best be implemented in your business. You can also access tools at www.startwalkingnow.org.