Employee Health Initiatives Sponsored by Hospitals

Many hospitals are moving towards a policy of “walk the talk” when it comes to the health of their employees. Some will no longer hire smokers, and prospective employees can expect to be tested for tobacco products at the first interview with a mouth swab. Hospitals want their employees to set an example for patients, and they know that a patient will more likely take health advice from someone who is visibly healthy. That’s why hospitals are offering incentives for employees to get healthy, and rewards for them to stay that way.

Insurance companies decided to require higher health and life insurance premiums from new customers, and now hospitals such as the Cleveland Clinic Foundation are offering employees insurance premium incentives to keep themselves healthy. If employees have regular checkups and manage their chronic diseases, they’ll avoid a premium increase during annual benefits enrollment.

Four years ago, the Clinic started healthy employee initiatives which now include free Weight Watchers meetings, free use of the on-campus gym and yoga classes to manage stress. Since the programs began, Clinic employees have collectively lost more than 250,000 pounds.

In addition to offering healthy activities and group support, the Clinic removed food and drink temptations to prevent employees from breaking their newfound health habits. Sugary drinks were taken out of vending machines and contracts of cafeteria fast food vendors were not renewed.

Other hospitals around the country are following suit, as are Fortune 500 companies. The primary goals are creating a healthy workforce with less sick days used and fewer doctors’ office visits required and keeping healthcare costs in line while helping companies maintain their productivity. The companies hope that in turn, employees become role models for their patients and families.

Bill Baun, president of the National Wellness Institute and manager of Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center wellness programs, said companies need to create a culture of wellness where employees take greater responsibility for their health. Dr. Michael Rozien, co-author of “You – The Owners Manual,” and the Clinic’s Chief Wellnss Officer said the changes in the Clinic’s environment make it difficult to be unhealthy.

Although early stages of the Clinic’s initiatives were nationally criticized, the fact that the number of hours logged in the on-campus gym has increased from 21,000 to 240,000 is testament to the employees jumping on board with the Clinic’s health and wellness philosophy.

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