Southeast Missouri Fights Healthcare Costs with Wellness Programs

by: Nichole Gunn August 10, 2011

Studies have demonstrated that an unhealthy lifestyle is the greatest obstacle to offering affordable healthcare benefits. Realizing this, a number of companies and municipalities are jumping on the corporate wellness programs band wagon.

The Southeast Missourian reported that one company to take the jump is Missouri's Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce. In the fall of 2010, the committee initiated an employee health and wellness project to motivate local employees to enhance their well-being by eating healthy, exercising, and becoming involved in community functions.

Get Fit Sikeston is the name of the wellness program and its intent is to enhance worker well-being and fitness through workplace competitions. These contests motivate worker teams to engage in activities such as, charity walks, bike rides, fundraisers, and related community functions. To include other areas of healthy behavior, such as a healthy diet, teams are afforded the opportunity to earn points for non-physical activities also.

Prior to the Get Fit initiative, employees were provided free body-mass-index measurements and blood pressure monitoring, along with a nominal fee for glucose screenings and lipid panels.

At the onset, Chamber of Commerce executive director Missy Marshall strived to get a minimum of 100 workers to participate in the program, but through its popularity the enrollment far exceeded the expectations; over 400 employees joined in.

City manager of Sikeston Doug Friend noted that benefits to workers who enrolled in the program included being able to stop smoking, the loss of weight, and other healthy changes. In addition, the team oriented activities resulted in an increase in comradeship among the workers, and provided a connection between departments.

Achieving and maintaining interest in employee wellness initiatives is essential for keeping productivity at peak levels; this is especially important during economic slumps. Marshall went on to tell the news source that, “Employers are having to deal with a lighter work force and need employees to be healthy. A healthier, more productive work force can lower healthcare costs."

Cape Girardeau’s Saint Francis Medical Center is another establishment that is taking advantage of employee wellness initiatives, according to the news source. The Medical Center implemented a program that motivates workers to go for yearly lab work, flexibility and blood pressure monitoring, along with additional health screenings. Participating in these initiatives affords employees the ability to earn points which can be turned in for vouchers to be applied toward health insurance premiums or medical bills.

A recent study from Deloitte, the Top Five Total Rewards Priorities Survey, revealed that the number one healthcare concern for employers is employee healthcare benefits costs. WorkWell, a Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce wellness initiative, encourages local businesses, big and small, to implement corporate health programs. The initiative provides program inception training to managers, and demonstrates the likely gains and services the hospital can offer the businesses.