Fitness friendly companies: the AHA honor roll

September 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, HEART AND STROKE

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What is Start! Fit-Friendly?

The American Heart Association (AHA) has named several American companies as Start! Fit-Friendly. The Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Recognition Program is an AHA initiative that encourages employers to business peopleinitiate and support wellness in the workplace. This year’s awardees number more than 1,100 businesses across the US.

Why should companies invest in wellness programs?

Poor health translates into poor productivity and increased medical expenses.

According to AHA statistics

  • Chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension account for 164 million lost work days annually in the US, worth $30 billion.
  • Obesity-related health problems cost American companies $12.7 billion each year in health care expenses and $225.8 billion in health-related loss of productivity.

The Washington DC group Partnership for Prevention reports that for every dollar spent by companies on prevention, $3.50 are saved from reductions in absence from work and health care costs.

According to AHA national chairman Neil Meltzer

“As health care costs keep rising, companies are realizing that helping workers get and stay healthy is a smart, effective way to control some of those costs.”

How does the Start! Fit-Friendly Program work?

AHA is giving tips and advice to employers on how to motivate employees to be more physically active and adopt healthier lifestyles. Some of the ways suggested by AHA are:

Walking. This is probably the easiest and cheapest activity for any employee to engage in but it is also effective. Walking trails indoors and outdoors have been introduced in many companies. An example is the Sinai hospital in Baltimore which in addition to walking trails also introduced carpeted, cushioned staircases in their 7-story building as inviting alternatives to the elevator.

Fitness centers anfamily_jumpingd coaching. Some companies have also installed fitness centers for employees to use at break times. An alternative would be to provide employees free or reduced membership fees in nearby health clubs.

Wellness programs. Companies are encouraged to regular conduct seminars on nutrition, health risk prevention, etc. Coupled to this is the employment of wellness coaches to give employees personalized advice on reducing health risks. Online programs over the company Intranet are also offered.

Financial incentives. Incentives are given to employees who seriously participate in fitness programs. The so-called “wellness bucks” are earned when employees participate in health-related activities such as exercising, participating in weight management classes, reporting for health assessment screening, or attending health seminars. The incentives may be in the form of lower health insurance premiums, more vacation days, personal training sessions, massages, etc.

What are the criteria for recognizing companies?

The AHA gives Worksite Innovation Award to companies who thought of new, creative and innovative ways to address the fitness challenge. The Community Innovation Award is given to companies that include not only their employees but the whole community as well. Companies are conferred “Platinum” or “Gold” if they meet criteria for fitness, nutrition, and health-focused workplace culture.

If you want to know your company or employer made the grade, check out the special section in the September 28 issue of Fortune magazine or this link. The section, entitled A Fitting Solution, highlight how

 “Corporate America is hard at work trying to get their employees in shape [because] it’s a great way to boost productivity and rein in health-care costs.

Photo credit: stock.xchng


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