News to know

Heath education saves lives and money

Read part one about incentive programs, part two about retirement plans and part three about rising health care costs.

Stop smoking, lose weight and watch your cholesterol. This has become the mantra for many glass company executives who are taking a proactive approach to health care by encouraging healthy lifestyles among employees.

Healthier employees mean fewer doctor visits and lower medical costs, something companies desperately need in a time of rapidly increasing health insurance costs. Many glass companies have started in-house education and incentive programs to encourage employees to live better and healthier.

“Prevention is much less expensive than paying for doctor visits,” says Jim Wendorff, vice president of human resources for Viracon of Owatonna, Minn. “We’ve developed several in-house programs, including smoking cessation and a Weight Watchers-type activity.”

The company also runs health fairs, profiling employees’ health to gain baseline health information and recognize risk areas. Based on that information, Viracon pairs employees with a coach who will identify high-risk areas and develop a program with the employee to improve their overall health.

“They’ll say, ‘You’re 40 pounds overweight, you smoke and have a high blood pressure. Let’s put a program together that might help you move toward a healthy lifestyle,’” Wendorff says.

Bill John, president of InterClad in Minneapolis, says his employees have similar opportunities offered through the Egan Wellness Committee, part of InterClad’s parent company Egan Co. of Brooklyn Park, Minn.

The committee helped set up an exercise room at its corporate headquarters—complete with amenities such as a locker room and sauna—that employees use for free.

The company also started the Egan Challenge to motivate employees in health competitions, John says.

“We challenge all employees to reach certain set personal goals. It got everyone energized, and participation was good,” John says.

Arch Aluminum & Glass Co. of Tamarac, Fla., ran its own competition—a Biggest Loser-type contest to promote weight loss, says Max Perilstein, vice president of marketing for the company.

“We had 445 people nationwide take part, and the top 10 ‘losers’ lost a combined 415 pounds,” Perilstein says. “We offered prizes and recognition. People really got into it, and they got healthier in the offing.”

Arch also publishes a bimonthly newsletter promoting its health savings account and offering tips and advice for staying healthy.

Wendorff says large and small companies alike can benefit from hands-on education programs.

Corporate medical coaching and education extends into all industries. Click here to read an in-depth article from the Feb. 21 edition of BusinessWeek about one company’s highly involved plan to reduce medical costs by changing employees’ lifestyles.


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