Published: Feb 02, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 02, 2013 05:44 PM
Town of Chapel Hill public works employee Scott Newton is a very thankful man.
In January 2012, he was rushed to the hospital where he suffered a heart attack. He was overweight and suffered from high cholesterol that required medication.
They put a stent in my heart on my wifes birthday, Scott said, quietly looking away.
He decided hed had enough.
So, when the town launched the Wellness@Work Weight Watchers program, Scott signed up. He attended meetings and learned new recipes and tricks to help him lose weight. I even signed up for a walking group on Tuesdays at lunch time that is sponsored by the town. With the support of his family and an attractive incentive plan offered by Wellness@Work, Scott lost almost 30 pounds.
Chapel Hill Wellness@Work was recently named one of the Triangles Healthiest Employers by the Triangle Business Journal. It was established in 2011 through a collaborative partnership between the town and UNC Health Cares Department of Family Medicine.
The umbrella program, Wellness@Work, is a program designed and delivered by UNC Family Medicine to provide comprehensive programs that lead to less absenteeism, lower health care costs, and higher productivity. UNC Family Medicine is designing a tailored Wellness@Work program for the Town of Hillsborough and is in talks with other area employers to further expand the program.
Reduced cost was especially important to Chapel Hill, which has more than 660 full-time employees. We believe that easy access to basic preventative health services and education can help employees better manage their health needs, while reducing medical costs, said Town Manager Roger Stancil. That has proven true. With the establishment of an employee wellness clinic and easy employee access to many additional prevention services, the town has already decreased its insurance premiums by more than $100,000 annually.
Chapel Hill Wellness@Work was developed in collaboration with representatives from the town employees. It includes programs to support tobacco cessation, weight loss, proper nutrition, and developing other healthy habits. We get in there and work with employers to create a culture of wellness, says Dr. Mark Gwynne, medical director for Wellness@Work. Today the Town of Chapel Hill offers regular walking groups, yoga, cooking classes and reduced gym memberships. We help coordinate lunch n learns to teach employees about healthy lifestyles and focus on reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic conditions.
In addition to wellness services, the program includes a fully staffed employee clinic that provides on-site minor illness and injury care as well as preventative care like flu shots. All at no cost to employees. Employees can access their own personalized web-based health information portal where they can schedule appointments, interact with the nurse practitioner, view their own voluntary health assessment data and access resources.
Today U.S. employers spend an average of about $18,000 per employee per year for costs related to health care and lost productivity due to illness. The research tells us that comprehensive programs like Wellness@Work have the potential to help employers cut these costs by more than 50 percent.
That is good for the taxpayer. Good for the employer. And most importantly, good for our health! Just ask Scott Newton.