HEALTH CARE: Employee health is golden

REGION – Four regional businesses have been recognized for motivating their employees to keep healthy.

Northern Michigan Hospital Foundation, Versus Technology Inc., Otsego Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Michigan College were all honored with Gold Awards by the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness at an Oct. 16 awards banquet in Lansing.

The Gold Award recognizes workplaces that have sustained comprehensive programs in physical fitness, health and sports. Recipients must provide an incentive to employees to participate in wellness activities and have at least 20 percent employee participation in at least two wellness activities during the past year. And programs had to have been in place for at least two years.

Businesses nominated for Healthy Workplace Awards have to show outstanding commitment to the health of their employees by establishing creative worksite healthy promotion programs with demonstrated success. Worksites can apply for recognition at four levels: Rookie-of-the-Year, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

? Versus Technology, a company with less than 40 employees in Traverse City, won the Silver Award last year and was thrilled to win the Gold Award this year.

Andrea Galloup, Executive Sales Manager and a member of the Wellness Committee, says one of their most successful programs has been the company’s ski weekend at Searchmont Resort in Canada. The company invites all employees and their families for a nearly all-expenses-paid weekend at the ski resort. (The company pays for equipment rental, lift tickets, lodging for two nights and lunch and dinner on Saturday.) Participation is about 90 percent.

Galloup says “it’s not only great physically, but also socially and emotionally, bringing co-workers closer together–and it’s a free day off work.”

To get employees motivated to do aerobic activities, the Wellness Committee posts a tracking map. This year the map is from Traverse City to Orlando, Fla. Employees track their aerobic mileage-minutes and receive prizes as they push-pin their way across the map. A grand prize is awarded to the first person to reach the destination. They do one map in the winter and one during the summer months.

“It keeps people interested and helps me to stay motivated,” says Galloup.

Employees can also be evaluated for cardiovascular disease risks. If they participate, they receive stock in the company. The lower their risk factor, the more stock they receive.

Versus also offers employees an on-site fitness room, a smoke-free workplace and a Wellness Bulletin Board. Galloup says, “we’ve have good support from management. The health of the company depends on the health of the employees.”

? Otsego Memorial Hospital in Gaylord also has an active program that addresses all areas of wellness. The hospital offers a year-long “Walk the Four Seasons” program with incentives offered to participants as they log their aerobic activities, which can be anything from walking to swimming to biking, etc.

In conjunction, the hospital offers monthly educational luncheon presentations on a variety of health-related topics. Mary King, Health Education Coordinator, says the presentations this year were very well attended.

OMH also has a smoking cessation program for employees and provide free pharmaceutical agents and other services to employees and their spouses who are making efforts to kick the tobacco habit. This year employees participated in health fairs, health screenings, CPR and First Aid Training and hospital tours for children. Incentives are tied in with each program.

? Northwestern Michigan College has a long history of commitment to wellness, and its wellness committee is responsible for promoting healthy lifestyles through education, awareness, activities and encouragement.

According to Pat Salathiel, RN-C, Director of Student Health Services, the college has offered wellness programs to their employees for 13 years, tying an award in with each program. NMC offers employees three different health risk appraisals and fitness assessments, and recently began stressing the importance of exercise over weight loss.

“We always felt if we are able to identify one health problem or risk factor through screenings and assessments, all our efforts are worth it,” declares Salathiel. “It’s just fun. We’re very pleased and honored to receive this award.”

Community members are encouraged to use the college fitness center for exercise, cardiovascular fitness evaluations, and blood pressure screenings for a fee. Community members are also able to participate in numerous physical and mental health activities through NMC’s Extended Educational Services office.

? This is the third time Northern Michigan Hospital Foundation in Petoskey has been awarded a Gold Healthy Workplace Award, notes Sue Blankenhagen, Wellness Coordinator.

The Foundation offers employees free health screenings, along with a Wellness Incentive Points program, which has greatly increased employee participation in wellness activities.

Applications are available beginning in January for businesses interested in applying for a Healthy Workplace Award. Deadline for entry is May 1.

For more information, contact Donna Burge of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports at 517-732-1794. BN