It’s the time of year when good intentions go bad. The New Year’s resolutions made a month ago are fading away and the old habits and routines have come roaring back. The best laid plans of eating healthy meals, consistently exercising and quitting smoking are forgotten.
But that’s not the case for everyone. Beginning with their kick-off on Jan. 8, the employees of East Tennessee Medical Group aren’t just making resolutions, they are making lifestyle changes that will have a positive impact on their overall health. They have chosen to do away with the usual pitfalls of losing motivation, unhealthy habits at work and lack of support or knowledge by taking part in the Wellness Works Program offered by their employer.
The idea began a year ago when Jeff Mitchell of Benefits Consulting Services presented the program to Sherry Reagan, director of human resources at ETMG. They formed an Employee Benefit/Wellness Committee and began the process of educating the committee members on the program.
Soon Jana Dagel, an internal medicine nurse, rose to a leadership position within the committee and was named ETMG’s Wellness Champion. According to her employers, her outgoing personality, willingness to share with people and high degree of motivation made her an obvious choice.
“I believe in ‘practice what you preach,’” Dagel said. “How can I tell someone about diabetes and how important being a healthy weight is when I’m not doing those things myself?” Dagel serves as the contact person for anyone in the ETMG wellness community who has questions or concerns.
The program is centered around a software tracking system created by Matria Healthcare. “Matria usually just works with big groups, but they worked out an arrangement to deliver the system to local, small businesses,” Mitchell said. “Our first purpose is to get this group healthier, then we want to create a system to promote to other community employers.”
The program utilizes a Web site that an employee can log onto with their confidential login name and password. Then they enter the results of their blood work, BMI and other health and weight factors. The Wellness Works Program is voluntary and falls within HIPAA guidelines, so no one at the company has access to any individual’s records. The employee then chooses the wellness challenges that interest them. They complete the challenges, enter their accomplishments and the program tracks their progress. There’s a point system for each challenge completed and, as an employee earns points, he or she also earn rewards such as movie tickets and even cash.
Mitchell said the challenges range from physical activities to stress management challenges, healthy eating and the ‘maintain, don’t gain’ challenge. There are also wellness credits available for getting physicals, completing online seminars and participating in community events. “It’s a system of six- to eight-week challenges,” he said.
The program is not just for those who want to lose weight, Reagan said. It’s for overall health improvement. She said many employees are using the program to help with reducing and dealing with stress. Also, many like Julie Cate, are taking the challenge to stop smoking.
“I have been thinking about this for a while and with our company starting the Wellness Works Program, I figured that it needed to be all aspects of my health, not just part of it. I want the Wellness Works program to help guide me in the direction of healthy living and use that to my advantage instead of substituting my quitting smoking with eating or just sitting around,” Cate said. “I just want people to know that with determination it can be done. I look forward to the challenge and hope it helps someone else,” she said.
“This is the best thing we’ve ever done. It’s a win/win for everyone,” said Ron German, CEO of ETMG. “The employees get the opportunity to get help, and we get the opportunity to reduce claims and have more productive employees. We have 210 employees and if we can get 50 percent to participate, we’ve reached our goal.”
Mitchell said there is a return on investment for health care. Someone with no risk factors has an average yearly health care cost of $3,000. Someone with three risk factors has an average yearly health care cost of $5,200. The program is very inexpensive when compared to the health care expenses of an unhealthy employee. “Our goal is to help people make those small lifestyle changes that will move them down to only having one or two risk factors,” he said.
“People’s perception of getting healthier is going to a gym or running when really it’s as simple as making small changes that, over time, make a difference,” said Mitchell.
For more information about the Wellness Works Program for your business, contact Jeff Mitchell toll free at 877-513-2312 or Sherry Reagan at 865-268-2434.
Blount Today will be following the progress of ETMG employees Jana Dagel and Julie Cate over the next several months as they share how they overcome their struggles and celebrate their triumphs. As we check in with them, we’ll hear about their progress and see how the Wellness Works program is helping them succeed. Be sure to check back and see what’s going on in the ETMG wellness community.