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Creating Healthy People: CHP’s Comprehensive Approach to Health for its Associates

separator You hear about companies that offer a few programs to help their employees get on the road to better health—aerobics classes on site, maybe, stress reduction programs, or similar efforts. But it’s not often that you come across a company that offers such a comprehensive program as Catholic Healthcare Partners “Creating Healthy People” program.

There’s very little about health that this program doesn’t cover. And it’s done in such a creative, imaginative way that CHP associates are actually enjoying it. Healthy Steps team competitions, seminars serving food that fights cancer, weekly articles and monthly posters that speak to different health issues, incentives for associates who participate , seminars discussing balancing work and family…these are just some of the features of the “Creating Healthy People” campaign.

Lori Gulley, Human Resources Manager at CHP, says, “We wanted to improve associates’ awareness of their health status and empower them to take control. Many of us are not in the habit of taking responsibility for our health. We wait until something happens, and when it does, we wonder why and wish we had made better choices that could have prevented it.

Gulley and her colleagues decided it was time to change that. They selected a vendor, WellCorp, Inc., and got the program started with a health risk assessment rollout last October. “We had 92 associates participating in the rollout,” says Gulley. The assessment identified the five key areas that associates needed to focus on: diabetes, weight management, nutrition, fitness and coronary risk (including controlling cholesterol and high blood pressure). Cancer wasn’t quite in the top five, Gulley says, but it was high on the list. Through our “Creating Healthy People” program, we not only are making associates more aware, we are giving them the tools and resources to do something positive for themselves,” says Gulley.

The results also compared CHP to national averages, explains Gulley. “In some areas our associates had results that were higher than the national average. But in others, they were lower. For example, of those 92 people, 70 percent had a higher than average body mass index, or BMI.”

Awareness spurred participation
Gulley believes that as soon as people saw what their health status was, they were ready to make changes. “We have a core group of people who now have a desire to do something about their health,” she says.

So far, CHP has held a kickoff meeting and two seminars. “We had 50 people at the kickoff,” says Gulley, who was pleased with that turnout. The first seminar was called, “Myths and Realities of Healthy Eating and Weight Loss.” At the second seminar, which was titled, “Can Food Fight Cancer,” associates were served a catered meal consisting of foods that help prevent cancer. “We received a lot of positive feedback about this seminar, both relative to the content as well as the lunch provided,” Gulley says.

CHP also offers Weight Watchers at work, and pays half the cost. Pilates is offered twice a week during the lunch hour, and again, the company pays for half. They are in the process of conducting fitness assessments and will offer a follow-up assessment in the late fall which will report progress made. For the spring assessment, “We did a more comprehensive BMI test using calipers,” explains Gulley. “And there was also a 3-minute step test to gauge your heart health and a flexibility test.”

Participation in all of the CHP-sponsored programs is voluntary but is increasing all the time. Excitement is building. “There’s a positive buzz in the hallways,” says Gulley.

Incentives, competition foster camaraderie
Another component of the program is the Healthy Steps Challenge. Participants form teams, receive pedometers and keep track of the number of steps they take each day. Their goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps per day. The individual and the team with the most steps will receive an award. Gulley says that people really seem to be enjoying a sense of camaraderie and healthy competition from this challenge.

There’s also a “Well Perks” form. Participants keep track of their participation and accumulate points. They can get points for a variety of activities, such as having routine health screenings, participating in the seminars that are offered, trying the healthy recipes that are provided weekly, etc. At the end of the year, those who earn points that fall within specific ranges will be eligible to win prizes. Then, those that reach level three (the highest level of points) will have their names put into a drawing for the grand prize, which is three months’ worth of the money that is deducted from their paychecks for medical insurance. In early December, the total points from the Well Perks form will be tallied by the off-site consultant, and reported back. CHP is committed to ensuring that associates’ results maintain confidential. Only the outside consultant has access to this information. CHP is only provided with aggregate or non-confidential information.

Even if associates haven’t participated in a specific program, they still have the benefit of constant reminders throughout their building. “We have health education posters up that talk about the risks of obesity and the benefits of maintaining a healthy weight,” says Gulley. There are also 5-pound replicas of actual fat located on three of our four floors. “Two of our fat replicas are located in our break rooms, where a lot of people eat their lunch. I’ve heard there’s a mad rush to sit where you’re not facing the fat replica,” she laughs.

Why would companies make such an effort for their employees?
Do you wish your company would sponsor a program similar to CHP’s? Are you wondering how you might approach your human resources department with a similar idea?

“Having a program like this shows that a company has the best interests of its associates in mind,” says Gulley. “People could also point out to their human resources department that although these programs are not cheap, if companies fail to be proactive in the associates’ health, and provide a wellness program, they’ll pay in the form of insurance claims, lost productivity and sick time instead. Long before this wellness initiative was started, CHP was an absolutely wonderful place to work. We are all very fortunate to be a part of this organization. However, through programs like this I think CHP will see an even higher employee morale, and will even better position us as an employer of choice.”

More in store for next year
The “Creating Healthy People” campaign isn’t just a 1-year effort. Health assessments will be performed again this October. “The results will help us focus on what we need to do for next year,” says Gulley.

If this year is a good example, CHP associates have a lot to look forward to.

Interview with Lori Gulley, Human Resources Manager for Catholic Healthcare Partners' Corporate Office.
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