Good Eats for Every Body

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“Nutrition applies to everyone,” says Jacque Hahn. She and the other 10 employees at Mark!t in Rochester do not smoke and quite a few people already regularly exercise—but everybody eats. So eating better became the main focus for the marketing firm’s wellness efforts. For its wellness program, Rochester-based Eastwood Bank, which has long hosted weight-loss programs, emphasized healthy eating and added increasing activity among employees.

These two businesses are among 11 in Olmsted County that received worksite wellness grants from the Statewide Health Improvement Program. SHIP encourages healthier habits at worksites throughout Minnesota—and among more than 2,700 people in Olmsted County alone.

Improvements advocated by SHIP are important because, in the United States, preventable chronic diseases account for about 75 cents of every dollar spent on health care, according to a Kaiser Health News piece by Kenneth Thorpe, executive director of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, and Jonathan Lever, vice president for health strategy and innovation at the YMCA of the USA. Moreover, about 80 percent of heart disease and type-2 diabetes and 40 percent of cancers could be prevented by doing three things: exercising more, eating better and avoiding tobacco, say Centers for Disease Control and Prevention experts.

As employees at Mark!t and Eastwood Bank have found, preventing chronic disease can be tasty, tailored to individuals, and even fun. Healthy potluck contests, with rules about allowable amounts of fat, sodium and carbohydrates, were held at each of Eastwood Bank’s 11 locations. Favorite recipes were forwarded to the wellness committee for a taste test—and the winning taco soup maker received a $100 gift card. “Because people became so excited about this,” says Joleen Mittelstadt, human resource officer, “we’re taking the recipes and making a cookbook.”

Mark!t switched to healthy snacks in the office and using SHIP funds matched by employee contributions, hired a licensed dietitian to advise individuals. The meal plan the dietitian created for a man concerned he’s too thin differs from how she advised Tammy Hester, who wanted to avoid that starving feeling before dinnertime. Hester says that, given all the claims on grocery items, “I really wondered what a healthy snack was.” Now she knows how to read nutrition labels. And Hahn, following the dietitian’s guidance, ate better and saw results: her cholesterol dipped below 200 for the first time in years.

Moving more is key to health, too. At Eastwood, some employees have been doing yoga at work for about three years. With help from SHIP, they’ve extended that fitness commitment to other activities that interest employees, such as body sculpting. Through the local health club, the wellness committee tried a dance-based fitness routine, too.

“We have some guys on our wellness committee,” Mittelstadt says, “and to see them do Zumba was so much fun.” •

Eastwood Bank Wellness Committee poses for a picture in their Yoga space. They have found success in holding Yoga classes during the lunch hour and after work.


Agriculture Sector Shares Insights on Health Care Costs

Focus group provides real-world clarity on health care costs

The high costs of employee health benefits continue to be a serious concern for business, including the agriculture sector. A group of individuals representing eight agriculture organizations told researchers at the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota that the agriculture sector has many of the same concerns as other business sectors, with some unique challenges as well.

“Despite the fact that agriculture is a unique and often under-appreciated sector of our economy, they look to find solutions to many of the same issues as other businesses, because they are running businesses,” says Matt Hughes, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s Small Business Alliance.

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Take Good Care of Yourself

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Recommendations to eat healthily, be active and quit tobacco—the three-pronged approach advocated by the Statewide Health Improvement Program to cut chronic disease costs and suffering—suit Bonnie Frisk perfectly. A public health worker in Blue Earth County, Frisk says: “I’m passionate about our work on SHIP projects. Making healthy improvements really fits what’s best for our community.”

That attitude is helping business develop a culture of health. “We spend so much time at work, “ Frisk says, “it just makes sense that we take care of ourselves at our worksites.” In Blue Earth County, worksites numbering from nearly 50 to a college campus with more than 16,000 people are taking advantage of SHIP grants and interventions to make healthy choices easy choices.

Healthier Workplaces, Healthier Workers, a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota program, has been adopted by seven businesses, including the Mankato Clinic. Although clinic programs already encouraged healthy habits, since SHIP, the clinic now has a wellness committee with the following purpose statement: “The vision of Wellness for Life is to improve the overall well-being of our staff, which will also support the clinic’s mission to improve patient care.”

One of the particular challenges of the clinic, says Sara Will, human resources administrator, is that about 85 percent of their 710 staff are female. These are moms, grandmothers and caregivers who typically put the needs of others first. “Many of these women find it difficult to find time for themselves, yet they are interested in living healthier lives for themselves and for their families,” Will says. “Our wellness committee wants to provide our staff with tools and techniques to help them live that healthier life.”

With two young children, Will also faces the issue of work-life balance. She rises early to walk and run. “That’s the only time I have to do it,” she says. She has a friend join her, which helps keep her accountable for her health. And at the clinic, management has a role in encouraging staff to take care of themselves. Frisk says, “They must recognize the importance of providing staff time to take a walk or to have stretching breaks during the day.”

Mankato Clinic’s efforts include wellness activities throughout the year punctuated by short-term shape-up challenges. This coming fall, Will says the clinic will take advantage of internal resources such as dietitians and a psychologist to tackle weight-loss issues.

Improving the health of staff also may improve the clinic’s fiscal health. “Last year, our health plan was  $1 million over budget,” Will says. While this year’s budget is fine so far, she adds, the clinic needs to be proactive. Perhaps in the long run, it can bring down its health plan costs.

The wisdom of wellness, Frisk says, is in moderation. “We tell people not to deprive themselves of things they love,” she says. “If you go camping, have that roasted hot dog and a s’more.” But be mindful of what you are eating and moderate about how much. •

Mankato Clinic team members join the MS walk together.


In Pictures: Announcing the Congressional Wellness Caucus

Below are a series of photos taken during the Congressional Wellness Caucus announcement on June 13, 2011 at Apogee Enterprises. View a clip from KARE 11 Television news coverage of the announcement.


Representative Erik Paulsen (MN-03) and Senator Amy Klobuchar at the news conference announcement.


Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative Erik Paulsen (MN-03) at the news conference announcement.


Apogee Enterprises CEO Russ Huffer speaking at the news conference announcement.


Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger speaking at the news conference announcement.


Senator Klobuchar and Representative Paulsen with Russ Huffer, CEO of Apogee Enterprises.


Highlights from Apogee Enterprises health and wellness initiatives, such as a health assessment, on-site biometric screenings, weight loss contests and physical activity challenges with incentives and healthy nutrition choices in and around the office.


Senator and Representative with Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Ehlinger.


Senator and Representative with Commissioner Ehlinger and Minnesota Department of Health staff members.


Senator Klobuchar and Representative Paulsen with Chief Prevention Officer Doctor Marc Manley of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.


Senator Klobuchar and Representative Paulsen with Randy Kehr, President of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of COmmerce and Ellen Kehr, Freeborn County Statewide Health Improvement Program Coordinator.


Senator Klobuchar, President of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota Tom Mason, Congressman Erik Paulsen.


Senator Amy Klobuchar, State Senator Terri Bonoff, TwinWest Chamber of Commerce Director of Government Affairs Judy Johnson, Congressman Erik Paulsen.


Senator Klobuchar, Litchfield Chamber of Commerce President Dee Schutte, Representative Erik Paulsen.


Senator Klobuchar, Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce President Ruthe Batulis, Representative Erik Paulsen.


Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce President Todd Klingel, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Representative Erik Paulsen


Senator Klobuchar and Representative Paulsen with Medical Director Dr. Kevin Ronneberg of Medica, a member of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota.


Senator Klobuchar and Representative Paulsen with UnitedHealth Group’s Leslie Kupchella, Senior Director of Corporate Communications, Pamela Ross, Social Responsibility Community Affairs Manager. UnitedHealth Group is a member of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota.


Senator Klobuchar and Representative Paulsen with Helen Rubenstein of the Public Health Law Center at William Mitchell College of Law.


Senator Klobuchar and Representative Paulsen with American Diabetes Association's Jenni Hargraves, Executive Director Serving Minnesota and North Dakota.


Klobuchar, Paulsen Announce Congressional Wellness Caucus

Read an Opinion Editorial by Sen. Klobuchar and Rep. Paulsen in the June 17 Star Tribune.

Watch a video of the announcement news conference. 

Check out a few photos from the announcement.

Learn more.

KARE11 video from June 13:

If you ask forward-looking business leaders, many chambers of commerce, and state and local health officials, you’ll hear that Minnesota is a leader in workplace wellness — but there’s much work left to be done. Today, Minnesota’s leadership in workplace wellness goes to Washington in the form of the Congressional Wellness Caucus announced by Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative Erik Paulsen (MN-03).

Designed to shed light on the cost reduction and productivity enhancing benefits of workplace wellness, this bipartisan, bicameral caucus will investigate and share the best practices, resources and research to help employers find the most effective ways to support employee health and wellness.

The caucus will be co-chaired by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-Minnesota) and Congressman Ron Kind (D-Wisconsin).

“It’s great to see Minnesota businesses leading the way nationally to support employees living healthy lives,” says Senator Klobuchar.

“Employers in my district understand the importance of healthy employees. By supporting proactive and preventative care, we can help curb healthcare costs and improve the lives of employees,” says Rep. Paulsen. “I am honored to help lead the bipartisan, bicameral efforts of the Congressional Wellness Caucus in such a cause. I would also like to commend the hard work of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota for their work in driving the dialogue of workplace health and wellness among Minnesota businesses of all sizes.”

The issue of individual health has a significant impact on employer costs, but efforts to support health and wellness can make a positive difference. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows that 75 percent of employers’ health care costs are related to employee lifestyle choices.The CDC also says companies that sponsor health and wellness programs get a return on their investment of between $3-$6 for every dollar they spend over a two- to five-year period.

“Workplace wellness makes sense for employee’s health and for the bottom line,” says Chief Prevention Officer Doctor Marc Manley of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “Many of the diseases that are making people sick are preventable, and we know employers can have a real impact by promoting healthy workplaces and strong wellness programs.”

“We’ve heard from employers throughout the state that their rising health care costs are unsustainable and they want to do something about it,” says Tom Mason, president of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota. “It’s exciting to see congressional leaders taking on this issue in a way that will use the market to help reform health care.”

With the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota and Dr. Manley, the announcement was made at Apogee Enterprises, an architectural glass company based in Bloomington. Apogee, with around 20 worksites across 11 states and a total of 3,300 employees nationwide, began implementing workplace health initiatives in 2008. The company’s current wellness activities include a health assessment, on-site biometric screenings, weight loss contests and physical activity challenges with incentives and healthy nutrition choices in and around the office. Another key to Apogee’s success has been active, visible support from senior leadership.

“I’m proud of our staff for their work to support a healthier workplace culture at Apogee,” says Russ Huffer, Apogee CEO. “We have growing participation among employees in our wellness initiatives, leading to a healthier workforce and helping us to better manage healthcare costs.”


Losing Weight, Gaining Exercise Options

Carla Peck with former Biggest Loser Contestant Jesse Atkins, at an awards ceremony for Hennepin County.


Carla Peck wins one of four Snap Fitness memberships during statewide weight loss competition.

BURNSVILLE – Through the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge, Carla Peck started exercising more and paying close attention to eating healthy food. Those efforts paid off in more ways than one. Not only did she lose seven pounds during the statewide weight loss competition, Peck won a one-year membership to Snap Fitness. Four participants who placed in the top 1,000 in the weight loss, nutrition, or exercise categories earned that prize.

“The membership to Snap Fitness will enhance what I’ve already been doing,” says Peck, who plans to add weight lifting at the gym to her regular walking regime. “The free Snap membership will really make it easier to keep up with my exercise goals for the next year … by encouraging me to keep active, taking time out from the work day to work out, and the weight loss I’ve already had.” She has lost a total of 20 pounds since January 2010 and is continuing toward her long-term weight loss goal.
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Doing Good While Losing Weight


Capt. Kate Jones of the McLeod County Jail gets motivated to help area food banks while participating in a statewide wellness competition.

GLENCOE – Kate Jones already was quite active, cross-country skiing and doing aerobics, but she joined the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge to keep herself motivated and help others through its food drive.

Jones is thrilled that the Minnesota Alliance team raised the nearly 60,000 pounds of donations to food banks through the Pound for Pound Challenge. For every pound of weight participants pledged to lose, a pound of groceries got delivered to local food banks.

During the statewide wellness competition, she gained inspiration by “being able to be a part of something bigger than myself. The knowledge that a portion of our results would be able to benefit our local food shelves was a huge motivator for me,” says Jones, who is administrator of the McLeod County Jail. “The Challenge was an awesome way to involve so many people.”
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He’s a Prize-Winning Weight Loser


Cory Marquart of Morris earns a one-year gym membership by focusing on fitness during statewide wellness competition.

MORRIS – Cory Marquart never wants to let down his team, whether he is volunteering as a member of the Morris Fire Department or participating in the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge. That loyalty motivated him to exercise for 3,600 hours during the health and wellness competition and won him a free year-long membership to Snap Fitness. The prize was part of the Challenge, which attracted 22,000 participants across Minnesota.

“I have been working out for a while now, and sometimes getting excited to go work out can be hard,” says Marquart, an engineer at the University of Minnesota–Morris’s Renewable Energy Center. “I knew that I could help my team out, and I didn’t want to let the team down.”
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Well-Rounded Wellness Guides Strong Performance

Normandale Community College was a force to be reckoned with during the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge. Two of its four teams placed in the top five of the Colleges and Universities Division, including one team that won third place in exercise and another that captured third place in nutrition. Along the way, employees got inspired to exercise more, eat healthier, and lose weight.

“We are all glad we did it. We developed some good habits that we are endeavoring to maintain,” says Michael Berndt, captain of team ASPIRE, which won the Division’s third place in nutrition and fifth place in exercise. Tracking exercise, nutrition, and weight during the competition “made us more conscious of the choices we were making, so when those decisions came up we were less likely to choose poorly.”
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Working Well in St. Cloud

With an annual Biggest Loser-style weight loss competition and occasional “Lunch and Learn” sessions with health and nutrition experts, St. Cloud-based KDV had already set the stage for a culture of wellness among its employees. The financial and technology services and consulting company even had a 10-person wellness committee devoted to the cause. However, wellness events were sporadic, and the committee’s primary purpose was to research an HSA option for employees. But last year when committee members attended a Minnesota Department of Health Statewide Health Improvement Program meeting, they learned the program could help their company take its efforts to another level.

The Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) leverages policy, systems and environmental changes to help Minnesotans decrease smoking and tobacco use, eat healthier and move more to fight unhealthy weight. In January, SHIP awarded KDV a grant to help develop a menu of wellness education programs and activities.

KDV has invested much of the funding in contracted services with Rejuv Medical, a fitness and physical wellness company in nearby Waite Park. Rejuv is providing KDV employees with twice-monthly “Lunch and Learn” sessions taught by industry professionals. Designed to offer tips to achieve better health, each session focuses on a different topic, from nutrition and reading food labels, to the nuts and bolts of strength training, cardio and stretching, to dealing with stress. Employees who attend also enjoy a free healthy lunch.

Andrea Kringstad, controller, believes the sessions have helped employees become more knowledgeable about making healthy choices.

“Before, we would hear from employees that time was the biggest obstacle to maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” she says. “But I think through the education process they’ve been receptive to the fact that small changes can make a big difference.”

In that spirit, employees are also invited to attend weekly group workouts hosted by Rejuv. Some are gearing up for KDV’s first-ever company 5K. To date, 20 people have signed up to participate in the race next month.

To keep employees healthy in the long run, the company is also giving each employee an Easy Fit monitor. The wearable device tracks movement and calories burned, offering each wearer a snapshot of their daily exercise.

Though the company has yet to measure return on investment when it comes to health-oriented programs, Kringstad says SHIP funds have allowed KDV to jump on the fast track to a culture of wellness.

“People are not going for candy in the vending machines,” Kringstad says. “They are bringing healthy snacks from home and trying to avoid soda, opting for alternatives like water. People are also talking about being more physically active. Just to hear about people being physically active outside of work is great.” •

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Wednesday workout sessions at Rejuv Medical, a fitness and physical wellness company.

KDV team members training for a 5k.