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Health Care: What Adventurous Employers Are Doing

Aug 19, 2008
Health care costs are an issue that every business faces - from the smallest nonprofit to the corner family-owned drug store to major corporations. A new trend is taking shape in which employers take the initiative in encouraging employees to "own" their health. Part of this strategy involves recognizing that insurance alone cannot create a healthy workforce. Employees must be encouraged to take ownership of the aspects of their health that can be impacted by their own actions.

So more and more employers are adopting innovative strategies to advise and encourage their employees to make healthy choices in life:

1) By creating intranet systems that inform employees about their health plans while providing individualized fitness and wellness advice;
2) Providing links to health information on the Web;
3) Making gym facilities and nutrition information available to employees;
4) Creating employee newsletters that deal with health issues;
5) Holding health workshops and fairs;
6) Incentivizing healthy choices among employees, such as good diet and exercise, regular medical checkups, and yearly screening.

Companies continue searching for working strategies in these areas. One Detroit-based holding company, adopting the last-named strategy above, recently embarked on an innovative program which it calls the Million Minute Challenge.

Many people know how easy it is to make resolutions about exercise - and how hard it may be to keep them. Hard-working, competitive American employees, who pour their energy into their jobs, know that career and personal demands can make it hard to dedicate the time to exercise. Still, it is important to get the doctor-recommended thirty minutes of physical activity per day. For all types of workers, including those white collar workers who may spend hours in front of a computer, sitting at a desk, taking a half-an-hour to rejuvenate may have great impacts on physical health and energy levels.

With the Million Minute Challenge, one of the foundational principles of modern business is used to encourage employees to make that sometimes-hard, healthy decision: competition. Divisions of the company are being positioned against each other, with those divisions whose employees log the highest number of hours of exercise being eligible for prizes. Individuals who log heroically high number of hours will also be awarded. Over a nearly six-month period (twenty-four weeks), working with a base of two thousand employees nationwide, the company has set the ambitious goal of logging a million total hours of exercise. No particular sport is mandated: you can walk, swim, cycle, run, lift weights. Each company site will have a log book, where the minutes of exercise are written by each individual employee on an honor system.

With division-wide prizes at stake, it may be easier to make that hard, healthy decision. After all, coworkers depend on each other to log a high number of hours, in order to increase the likelihood of prizes for everybody. Employees engage in exercise - which, as many studies show, is one of the best ways to cut down on the likelihood of long-term health problems - and health care costs may then be reduced. The workforce is healthier and more productive. With this type of program, everybody wins.
About the Author
Soave Enterprises diversified management and investment company founded by Detroit businessman Anthony Soave that provides strategic planning, financial and other management resources to its affiliated business ventures in the real estate, automotive retailing, beer distribution, scrap metal, industrial services and transportation industries, among others. For more information on Tony Soave and Soave Enterprises, please visit the website.
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