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New initiatives aimed at creating culture of wellness

Oct. 25, 2007
By Jackie Zimmermann

About 250 Ohio University classified staff members have taken advantage of WellWorks' new Healthy Ohio program, designed to promote the physical well-being of university employees.

Friday is the last day of screenings for classified staff, and as of mid-morning today, a dozen slots remained between 7 and 9 a.m. The program is being offered to classified staff this quarter, administrative staff winter quarter and faculty members spring quarter. To schedule a screening, classified staff members can call WellWorks at 593-2093.

WellWorks initiated Healthy Ohio and another program, Risk Reduction, to help employees to reach their healthy lifestyle goals and provide the tools necessary for them to do so. 

Healthy Ohio includes a three-step process to assess, inform and teach employees about their personal wellness and alert them if they are at risk for serious health problems. Participants receive $50 after successfully completing the process. 

"We're trying to help employees know their health status," said Heidi Anderson, education and special-events planner for WellWorks, the university fitness and nutrition program housed in Grover Center and administered by the College of Health and Human Services. "A lot of people here don't know what their cholesterol is or what their risk for heart disease is."

Anderson stressed that information gleaned from the screenings is private and confidential. Collectively, it can inform WellWorks about what type of programs would be most beneficial to employees.

The voluntary program begins with benefit-eligible employees attending free health screenings in order to assess their current health status. They then complete a personal wellness profile. Data from the profile and information sessions is used to generate a personal report that shows the employee's health status and recommendations for follow-up. Education sessions will be offered to help employees understand their report.

"It gives them their risk for developing cancer, for developing heart disease and makes some suggestions on how to improve their health," Anderson said.

In addition to the obvious value for employees, WellWorks Director Kim Valentour said the university gains as well. "We want to be able to assess as many people on campus as possible and come up with that group data so that we can better plan programs, services and benefits for Human Resources," said Valentour, who has researched software to supply group information instead of individual reports. "This is one way to try to assess the campus and really capture the bigger picture."

The aggregate data will help the university pinpoint problem areas and provide solutions. 

"We're not trying to guess what that issue is," said Greg Fialko, director of benefits and compensation for Human Resources, a partner with WellWorks in the initiative. "The hope is that we can collect data about the employees as a group that will point us in the direction of programs we can offer to help our employees be healthier."

The Risk Reduction program also is aimed at improving employee health. Headed by HeartWorks Director Tom Murray, the intensive, yearlong program focuses on creating healthy and habitual lifestyle choices. HeartWorks is WellWorks' cardiac rehabilitation program. 

"The objective is to help (employees) make long-term behavior change in activity, nutrition and stress because those are the three biggest things that people complain about," said Murray. 

Like the Healthy Ohio initiative, the program aims to improve overall health on campus while also helping reduce insurance costs. "I'm going to correlate the heath-care costs with the health improvements, and our long-term hope is that because employees are healthier, there is a reduction in health-care expense," Murray said.

The university has budgeted $37 million this year for health and life insurance benefits for employees, and estimates increase about 8 percent a year, Fialko said.

"We are hoping that we can prevent one open-heart surgery, one person from becoming diabetic, and we can save a couple hundred thousand dollars a year," Murray said. "That can make a lot of difference eventually."

Any Ohio University employee or eligible dependent with cardiovascular risk factors is eligible to participate in the program. More information is available from Murray at murrayt@ohio.edu or 740-593-2278.

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Published: Jul 20, 2006 3:50:00 PM
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