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Instead of focusing solely on how many hours an employee accumulates each week, many business owners are also focusing on the employee’s overall health.
Over the years, the number of businesses offering employee wellness programs has continued to grow. Mansfield Oil and The Longstreet Clinic are two Hall County businesses that have such a program.
"There are many benefits to having an employee wellness program. One of the benefits is that healthy employees tend to be more productive and miss less work," said Dr. Holmes Marchman, Longstreet Clinic medical director, who also heads up the clinic’s employee wellness program.
The clinic began a wellness program around five years ago and since that time it has grown to include a weekly farmers market to help employees and the public make more healthful food choices.
"From the humanitarian end, the No. 1 killer of Americans is heart disease. It usually can be identified easily, it is preventable and is a problem that most people don’t realize is such a major health concern," Marchman said.
While Longstreet’s program focuses primarily on heart health, the main goal of the program is to promote and boost an employee’s total health.
In order to determine which employees need wellness interventions, the clinic conducts voluntary employee physicals that include running various blood tests.
"One way we identify potential problems is by looking at outliers like family history and individual behavior, but the blood work really helps to paint a full picture. Any information we collect is confidential," said Marchman. "We give the employees a packet with their results and we explain what it means. We take the results, and stratify their cardiovascular risk and work with them to develop an intervention program."
Marchman says the goal is to have all employees tested, but participation isn’t required.
"Since it is optional, we came up with incentives to encourage employees to do the screening. If they choose to not be tested, they have to pay an additional out-of-pocket fee for health insurance," said Marchman. "If they have the screening done, then they don’t have to pay the fee. Clinic wide, we have about a 90 percent participation rate. Those who haven’t been tested generally have health insurance elsewhere, so there’s no incentive for them to participate."
After the screening is complete, the clinic offers a 12-week wellness class for employees. The classes meet once a week for an hour and follow a specific curriculum.
"The first part of the class is a lecture that focuses on different topics like explaining heart disease, cholesterol and how to change unhealthy habits. Coupled with the lecture portion, participants get out and walk- walking is a great exercise that is low impact and that most people can do," said Marchman. "As the course goes on, the lecture becomes shorter and the walking becomes longer. The goal is to get participants to increase their walking to five or six days a week."
Modifying eating habits and increasing physical activity can go a long way to decrease cardiovascular problems.
According to the American Heart Association, sedentary individuals can "improve their quality of life by exercising as little as 10 to 30 minutes a day." The association also reports that more than one-third of working-age Americans are at risk for chronic illnesses due to physical inactivity.
"The interesting thing with cardiovascular disease is that interventions like a healthy diet and exercise can positively impact other health concerns like cancer, gastrointestinal problems and diabetes," said Marchman. "Even little changes can make a big difference."