Detroit Lakes Employers Take On Health Care Costs


Carrie Johnston and Matt Hughes at the Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce following the focus group.

LOCAL BUSINESSES SHARE INSIGHTS WITH DETROIT LAKES REGIONAL CHAMBER AND ALLIANCE FOR A HEALTHIER MINNESOTA

Focus group provides real-world clarity on health care costs

Area small businesses told researchers that the skyrocketing costs of health care are unsustainable, even in the short term. Tuesday in a focus group cosponsored by the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota, participants discussed a variety of topics and concerns relating to the cost and consumption of health care. The focus group included businesses like Dynamic Homes, Essentia Health, Midwest Bank and SJE-Rhombus, among others.

“This meeting was a great way to hear successes and frustrations our members have with developing employee health initiatives,” says Carrie Johnston, president, Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce. “I think those in attendance found local connections to network and refer to.”

The focus group was one in a series of focus groups being hosted by the Alliance throughout the state. These focus group meetings are designed to help businesses express their thoughts, needs and frustrations regarding health care, and are designed to reveal the kinds of information that they seek, and how they would like to receive that information. Based upon this feedback, the Alliance will pursue opportunities to tailor information and tools to meet the needs of small and medium sized businesses.

“We know that businesses are struggling with health care – from information overload, to information clarity and options for solutions,” says Matt Hughes, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s Small Business Alliance. “Without question, clear options provide power. But before the needs of businesses can be met, we must know what they determine is most needed.”

Several participants discussed their efforts to provide health-related incentives and information to their employees, encouraging them to make healthier choices easier. Research supports these worksite wellness efforts. In fact, the CDC reports that more than 75 percent of employer health care costs and productivity losses are related to employee lifestyle choices.

Several employers in Becker County are working to help employees make healthy choices at work through the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). SHIP is designed to help Minnesotans live longer, healthier lives by preventing the leading causes of chronic disease: tobacco and obesity.

As part of the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), area employers have developed action plans to improve nutritional choices, increase opportunities for physical activity and reduce tobacco use for employees. SHIP was launched as part of Minnesota’s Vision for a Better State of Health, the bipartisan health reform package enacted in 2008.

The goal of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s Small Business Alliance is to bring the best health-oriented information, in the most useful ways, to small businesses and their employees, designed to support smarter, more informed consumers of health care with a special emphasis on workplace health promotion.

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Bemidji Businesses Discuss the Big Picture on Employee Health

LOCAL BUSINESSES SHARE INSIGHTS WITH BEMIDJI AREA CHAMBER AND ALLIANCE FOR A HEALTHIER MINNESOTA

Focus group provides real-world clarity on health care costs

Area small businesses told researchers that the skyrocketing costs of health care are unsustainable, even in the short term. Today in a focus group cosponsored by the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota, participants discussed a variety of topics and concerns relating to the cost and consumption of health care. The focus group included businesses like First National Bank, North Central Door Company, North Country Business Products, and Team Industries, among others.

“In dialog with our Chamber members, health care costs are at the top of their list of concerns,” says Lori Paris, president, Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce. “We see more and more businesses creating wellness programs in the workplace. Employers are providing time in the day for fitness, offering tobacco cessation programs, as well as weight loss challenges. They have experienced a boost in morale, camaraderie, and a more productive workplace. The opportunity, with these focus groups, is a great way for businesses to share experiences and learn from each other.”

The focus group was one in a series of focus groups being hosted by the Alliance throughout the state. These focus group meetings are designed to help businesses express their thoughts, needs and frustrations regarding health care, and are designed to reveal the kinds of information that they seek, and how they would like to receive that information. Based upon this feedback, the Alliance will pursue opportunities to tailor information and tools to meet the needs of small and medium sized businesses.

“We know that businesses are struggling with health care – from information overload, to information clarity and options for solutions,” says Matt Hughes, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s Small Business Alliance. “Without question, clear options provide power. But before the needs of businesses can be met, we must know what they determine is most needed.”

Several participants discussed their efforts to provide health-related incentives and information to their employees, encouraging them to make healthier choices easier. Research supports these worksite wellness efforts. In fact, the CDC reports that more than 75 percent of employer health care costs and productivity losses are related to employee lifestyle choices.

Several employers in Beltrami County are working to help employees make healthy choices at work through the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). SHIP is designed to help Minnesotans live longer, healthier lives by preventing the leading causes of chronic disease: tobacco and obesity. SHIP was launched as part of Minnesota’s Vision for a Better State of Health, the bipartisan health reform package enacted in 2008.

The goal of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s Small Business Alliance is to bring the best health-oriented information, in the most useful ways, to small businesses and their employees, designed to support smarter, more informed consumers of health care with a special emphasis on workplace health promotion.

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Downtown Mpls. Commuter Connection Hosts Small Business Leaders


Downtown Minneapolis TMO Executive Director Dan MacLaughlin and Small Business Alliance Executive Director Matt Hughes at the focus group.

Area small businesses told researchers that the skyrocketing costs of health care are unsustainable, even in the short term. Friday in a focus group cosponsored by the Downtown Minneapolis Transportation Management Organization (TMO) and the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota, participants discussed a variety of topics and concerns relating to the cost and consumption of health care. The focus group included businesses like Bassford Remele, Disciplined Growth Investors, Free Spirit Publishing, The Minneapolis Foundation and Private Bank Minnesota, among others.

The focus group was one in a series of focus groups being hosted by the Alliance throughout the state. These focus group meetings are designed to help businesses express their thoughts, needs and frustrations regarding health care, and are designed to reveal the kinds of information that they seek, and how they would like to receive that information. Based upon this feedback, the Alliance will pursue opportunities to tailor information and tools to meet the needs of small and medium sized businesses.

“We know that businesses are struggling with health care – from information overload, to information clarity and options for solutions,” says Matt Hughes, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s Small Business Alliance. “Without question, clear options provide power. But before the needs of businesses can be met, we must know what they determine is most needed.”

Several participants discussed their efforts to provide health-related incentives and information to their employees, encouraging them to make healthier choices easier. Research supports these worksite wellness efforts. In fact, the CDC reports that more than 75 percent of employer health care costs and productivity losses are related to employee lifestyle choices.

Many businesses in Minneapolis are working to help employees make healthy choices at work through the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). SHIP is designed to help Minnesotans live longer, healthier lives by preventing the leading causes of chronic disease: tobacco and obesity. As part of the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), the Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support and its partners are making long-term, sustainable improvements in schools, worksites and other environments to support healthy eating, physical activity and smoke-free living.

SHIP was launched as part of Minnesota’s Vision for a Better State of Health, the bipartisan health reform package enacted in 2008.

Through SHIP, the Downtown Minneapolis TMO implemented a workplace wellness pilot program with eight downtown employers and property managers. The pilot program includes worksite bike/walk friendliness assessments, worksite education and outreach programs, and worksite improvement grants for bike racks, lockers, bike repair kits and signage.

“We appreciate the opportunity to host a conversation between small business leaders to facilitate the exchange of ideas, strategies and concerns in dealing with rising health care costs. There is synergy between employer efforts to reduce health care costs through wellness initiatives and the TMO’s efforts to promote active commuting and transit programs,” says Minneapolis TMO Executive Director Dan MacLaughlin. “We are seeing an increase in requests from employers to help develop custom materials and programs to increase the effect of their wellness initiatives. These conversations help us improve the quality of services and programs we provide to the downtown business community.”

The goal of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s Small Business Alliance is to bring the best health-oriented information, in the most useful ways, to small businesses and their employees, designed to support smarter, more informed consumers of health care with a special emphasis on workplace health promotion.

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Start Small, Look Long

Stretching to counteract long hours working at the computer. Adding healthy choices such as fruit and water to the meetings with school administrators. Surveying the 14 employees to find out their ideas for equipping an exercise and relaxation room. “It’s just taking small steps that will have an impact,” says Denise Bohrer, controller at the Arrowhead Regional Computing Consortium. These changes for the better were sparked by the Statewide Health Improvement Program.

When Bohrer serendipitously saw an announcement about an upcoming SHIP meeting, she knew that a few of the consortium’s employees with health issues already were concerned about the affordability of health coverage. SHIP uses policy, systems and environmental changes to decrease smoking and tobacco use, as well as improve nutrition and increase physical activity to fight unhealthy weight.

Although the Arrowhead Regional Computing Consortium one of 16 businesses using SHIP services in the area, conducts meetings with 31 member school districts—so healthy choices and habits have a multiplier effect. The consortium, by making specific, sustainable changes, is more likely to be successful, according to Christy Clay, the SHIP coordinator for seven counties that includes Duluth and a Fit City Duluth employee.

“We often say, ‘Think small,’” Clay says. At one hospital in Clay’s region, yoga was offered—but at 45 minutes to an hour, people found it hard to commit. “Some of these people haven’t done anything for 10 years,” Clay says. “It’s easy to get discouraged.” Now, 10- to 15-minute yoga sessions are offered, making it easier for employees to participate.

To help businesses improve their worksite wellness, Clay and her team first carry out a comprehensive assessment of current practices and policies, then present a plan to senior leadership and management.

Once the employer is ready to create a health team, Clay makes sure it’s done right. She works with them to build a team that represents a cross-section of employees. “We’re not trying to make the healthy people healthier—35 percent are doing pretty darn well,” Clay says. “I’m trying to reach the other 65 percent.”

Once that health team is in place, Clay works with them to build capacity—“to expand the knowledge base on worksite wellness for those who can provide these services and those who can benefit from them”—within these businesses.

At the Arrowhead Regional Computing Consortium, this help includes some training from Fit City Duluth staff in basic yoga stretches and other activities to launch their program. Cindy Lee Olson, the consortium’s finance, funding and management specialist, says, “Everything we do now is electronic or remote control…. It’s good to bring that getting up and moving to the workplace.”

By taking small, measurable steps, Clay says, they can be successful—and evidence shows worksite wellness programs save money in the long term. The long term is where consortium Network Engineer Bob Buchanan is looking, too. “A year from now,” he says, “I hope a number of these ideas have changed our work habits.”  •

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Kicking the Habit in Rochester

Transforming work places to become tobacco-free in Olmsted County calls for a big picture approach. New tobacco-free policies in place or in process are designed, says Michelle Haugen, “not to target the smoker but to target the environment.”

“We’re trying to create an environment where it’s easier for people to quit smoking,” says Haugen, a county public health educator. SHIP seeks to improve the health of Minnesotans through policy, systems and environmental changes to that lead to better nutrition, increased physical activity and decreased tobacco use.

After all, according to the American Cancer Society, just 20 minutes after quitting smoking, heart and blood pressure drop. As months and years of not smoking accumulate, a former smoker’s risk of heart disease, stroke and lung cancer decrease.

But quitting smoking is not easy, says Dawn Rainey, human resources manager for Custom Alarm. A couple of the smokers among the company’s 75 employees have committed to quit smoking but not yet succeeded. “They’re both still trying,” she adds. Custom Alarm has made its campus completely tobacco-free and forbids employees to smoke on work hours.

This transformation to a no-tobacco policy has been effective with the help of SHIP, Rainey says. She did not have to “start from scratch” but instead had SHIP’s guidance in introducing the new policy over six months, crafting it,and answering employees’ questions with FAQs and in meetings.

The goal of SHIP is to help Minnesotans live longer, healthier lives by preventing the leading causes of chronic disease: tobacco and obesity. SHIP launched as part of Minnesota’s Vision for a Better State of Health, the bipartisan health reform package enacted in 2008. It makes it easier for Minnesotans to choose healthier behaviors by making changes in the places where we live, learn, work and play.

Registered Dietitian, Kaitlin Anderson was already in place at the north Rochester store of the Hy-Vee grocery chain. Even before she joined the Wellness Works Coalition in Olmsted County, she had been leading classes on wellness and nutrition at the store and in the community. With the help of a SHIP mini-grant, Anderson was trained in the American Lung Association’s Freedom from Smoking program.

She offered classes to Hy-Vee employees; six signed up and, after the eight-session course, have successfully quit smoking. Changes to the workplace environment make it easier for these new nonsmokers to continue their quest for a healthier lifestyle. They have eliminated the designated smoking area and established a tobacco-free campus policy that limits tobacco use to their personal cars.

So much of the work depends on the people in the worksites, says Haugen of Rainey, Anderson, and the other worksite coordinators: “props to our partners.”

“We provide resources, funding and technical assistance,” she says, “but it’s the people in the worksites who are making a difference for a healthy environment.” •

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35 pounds lighter, she’s on her way to Los Angeles and better health

Former Biggest Loser contestant Jesse Atkins announces grand-prize winner JoAnn Buck of Burnsville, an employee of the University of Minnesota.

The Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge helped JoAnn Buck lose weight and win the competition’s grand prize drawing

JoAnn Buck of Burnsville, an employee of the University of Minnesota’s Pediatric Urology Clinic, lost 35 pounds during the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge and won the competition’s grand prize drawing, a trip to see The Biggest Loser Season 11 finale in Los Angeles, California. This spring, JoAnn joined in the Minnesota Challenge, among 22,000 other Minnesotans, earning points for exercise, nutrition and weight loss.

The recently completed Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge is sponsored by the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota. Twenty-two thousand Minnesotans joined the free statewide wellness competition with their coworkers, friends and family and lost a total of 76,048 pounds.

JoAnn before losing 35 pounds during the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge.

Participants in the twelve-week competition also earned points for time and intensity of exercise, and making healthy nutrition choices such as eating adequate servings of vegetables and high fiber or whole grain foods. Together, participants earned 27,749,925 nutrition points and exercised 383,807 hours — the time it would take to walk around the earth 46 times.

“The Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge really helped to hold me accountable. I don’t have [The Biggest Loser trainers] Bob or Jillian to keep me accountable, but seeing my progress from week to week online pushed me to stay focused,” Buck says. “I set smaller goals, like losing 10 pounds per month. I want to do it slowly and steadily so I don’t set myself up to fail.”

Participants who earned a spot in the top 1,000 in each category (weight, nutrition and exercise) were entered in a drawing to win a trip to see The Biggest Loser Season 11 Finale in Los Angeles or one of four one-year memberships to Snap Fitness.

“Watching the contestants on The Biggest Loser has helped encourage me,” Buck says. “I learned some exercises and healthy recipes while watching the show to change up my routine and help keep me motivated.”

The grand prize includes two tickets to the finale; JoAnn will be bringing her 36-year-old daughter of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The visit to Los Angeles will be a first for both of them and they’re planning to make the most of it. “I’m absolutely ecstatic that I get to watch the finale live,” says Buck. “It’s an incredible prize; the trip to California is going to be fantastic!”

The Minnesota Challenge is the second wellness competition offered by the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota. During summer 2010, with the help of General Mills, the Alliance developed a relationship with NBC’s The Biggest Loser. A pilot wellness competition called the Biggest Loser Summer Challenge brought 10,000 employees of the Alliance member companies together to shed more than 37,000 pounds, exercise 16 million minutes and earn millions of nutrition points by making healthy food choices. The Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s Biggest Loser Challenge competitions are web-based and powered by RedBrick Health.

 

The Alliance is an employer-driven organization that uses competitions, entertainment and information to create community-wide campaigns that encourage Minnesotans to eat better and move more. Alliance member companies include: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Cargill, General Mills, Medica, Medtronic, The Midwest Dairy Association, Target, UnitedHealth Group and the Minnesota Department of Health’s Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). Learn more at HealthierMN.com.

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Hennepin County Employees Win Big in Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge

Download a PDF copy of the Minnesota Challenge Hennepin County News Release.


HENNEPIN COUNTY EMPLOYEES WIN BIG IN BIGGEST LOSER MINNESOTA CHALLENGE

More than 1,200 participants gain healthier lifestyles and lose a total of 4,750 pounds

MINNEAPOLIS – Together, 1,274 Hennepin County team members lost a total of 4,750 pounds, logged nearly 40,000 hours of exercise and more than 2.5 million points for nutrition this spring in a statewide competition called the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge. Hennepin County employees, retirees, and their friends and families teamed up to eat healthier, move more and shed extra weight.

The twelve-week, statewide Challenge attracted participation from 22,000 Minnesotans, who lost a total of 76,048 pounds, earned 27,749,925 nutrition points and exercised 383,807 hours — the time it would take to walk around the earth 46 times.

Many Hennepin County employees had been seeking a Biggest Loser-type competition, and the Statewide Health Improvement Program connected them with this free wellness challenge sponsored by the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota.

“The Challenge inspired and motivated many of our employees to improve their health,” says Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein. “I’m proud of our Hennepin County teams – they have excellent results to show for their hard work. I hope we keep up the conversation around health and wellness at work and get more people to do the Challenge next year.”

Hennepin County leadership offered two credits towards earning a health insurance incentive for the upcoming year to all County-insured participants in the Minnesota Challenge. They also provided health resources and tips to team captains, as well as regular updates on the Minnesota Challenge team standings through the County’s intranet. Overall, traffic is up in the Be Well Center, an employee health center, and during the Minnesota Challenge, more employees met with a health coach or used the scale for team weigh-ins.

“One of the things that attracted Hennepin County to the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge is that this challenge was focused on more than just weight loss,” says Tera King, Hennepin County HealthWorks Wellness Program Analyst. “Participants could use the Challenge as a launching point for creating a workplace community that supports healthier behaviors around physical activity and nutrition.”

Hennepin County did not limit the opportunity to current employees, either. The County actively spread word about the competition to also encourage participation among Hennepin County retirees and

family members. Steve Compton, Captain of the Hennepin County Skywalkers team said, “The fact that the county was supportive and encouraged our participation along with no fee to participate in the

Minnesota Challenge allowed us to participate in this community-wide event – bringing our co-workers and family along with us to develop good habits in what we eat and do – resulting not only in weight loss but also in better health for the long term.” The Skywalkers won seventh place in exercise among all teams in the Business/Chamber Division.

Led by team captains, each of the 158 Hennepin County teams used different ways to stay motivated. Activities included removing all candy bowls from the office area, offering weekly salad bar lunches, daily walking groups, kick-off parties and weekly check-ins, biweekly presentations and weigh-ins with a Health Coach, and group goal sharing, among others.

Many of the Hennepin County teams achieved great results from the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge. Nine Hennepin County teams earned a spot within the top 10 teams — in at least one category — in the Business/Chamber or Community Divisions.

  • The FairHennepin team wonsecond place in Nutrition among all teams in the Business/Chamber Division with an average of 7,998 points per person.
  • The Hennepin Handholders team wonthird place in Weight Loss among all teams in the Business/Chamber Division, with each team member dropping an average of 10.29 percent of his/her body weight.
  • The Hennepin Librarian team wonfifth place in Exercise, with an average of 34,238 points per person, and 10th place in Nutrition, with an average of 5,168 points per person among all teams in the Business/Chamber Division.
  • The Hennepin CHS team wonsixth place in Weight Loss among all teams in the Business/Chamber Division, with each team member dropping an average of 8.78 percent of his/her body weight.
  • The Hennepin Skywalkers team wonseventh place in Exercise among all teams in the Business/Chamber Division with an average of 31,876 points per person.
  • The Hopefuls of Hennepin wonseventh place in Nutrition among all teams in the Community Division with an average of 6,830 points per person.
  • The Hennepin County Crew won eighth place in Weight Loss among all teams in the Business/Chamber Division, with each team member dropping an average of 8 percent of his/her body weight.
  • Hennepin County “The World” won eighth place in Nutrition among all teams in the Business/Chamber Division with an average of 5,240 points per person.
  • The Hennepin IT team wontenth place in Weight Loss among all teams in the Business Chamber Division, with each team member dropping an average of 8 percent of his/her body weight.

In addition, Carla Peck, of Burnsville, a member of the Hennepin’s Slender Offenders team, won a drawing for a one-year Snap Fitness membership.

“I used the Minnesota Challenge and friendly competition with my team to help keep me accountable on exercise and nutrition,” says Carla Peck. “It was the push I needed to stay on track during this long winter and the free Snap membership will really make it easier to keep up with my exercise goals for the next year.” Carla earned nearly 7,000 nutrition points, the highest on her team at an average of eight healthy choices each day.

The Minnesota Challenge is the second wellness competition offered by the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota. During summer 2010, with the help of General Mills, the Alliance developed a relationship with NBC’s The Biggest Loser to pilot a wellness competition called the Biggest Loser Summer Challenge. The pilot competition brought 10,000 employees of the Alliance member companies together to shed more than 37,000 pounds, exercise 16 million minutes and earn millions of nutrition points by making healthy food choices. The Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s Biggest Loser Challenge competitions are web-based and powered by RedBrick Health.

 

The Alliance is an employer-driven organization that uses competitions, entertainment and information to create community-wide campaigns that encourage Minnesotans to eat better and move more.  Alliance member companies include: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Cargill, General Mills, Medica, Medtronic, The Midwest Dairy Association, Target, UnitedHealth Group and the Minnesota Department of Health’s Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). Learn more at HealthierMN.com.

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Biggest Loser’s Jesse Atkins will announce winner of trip to LA for the Biggest Loser Season 11 Finale and will recognize Hennepin County winners in Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge.

Carla Peck, of Burnsville, a member of the Hennepin's Slender Offenders team, won a drawing for a one-year Snap Fitness membership.

The Hennepin County “The World” team won eighth place in Nutrition among all teams in the Business/Chamber Division with an average of 5,240 points per person.

The Hennepin Skywalkers team won seventh place in Exercise among all teams in the Business/Chamber Division with an average of 31,876 points per person.

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Media Advisory: Biggest Loser’s Jesse Atkins at Hennepin County

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MEDIA ADVISORY
Biggest Loser’s Jesse Atkins will announce winner of trip to LA for the Biggest Loser Season 11 Finale and will recognize Hennepin County winners in Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge

What: Former Biggest Loser Contestant Jesse Atkins awards a trip to watch the Biggest Loser Television Show Finale in Los Angeles next Tuesday, May 24th to JoAnn Buck of Burnsville, an employee of the University of Minnesota’s Pediatric Urology clinic. Jesse will also recognize Hennepin County Government employees for their distinguished performance in the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge.

When: Wednesday, May 18, 12:00 – 12:30 p.m.

Where: Hennepin County Government Center – Outdoor Plaza, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis

Background: Twenty-two thousand Minnesotans lost 76,048 pounds in the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge, a twelve-week wellness competition open to all Minnesotans, free of charge to participants and sponsored by the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota.

Hennepin County government brought 1,274 employees, retirees, and family members to the statewide wellness competition. Together, Hennepin County teams lost a total of 4,750 pounds, logged nearly 40,000 hours of exercise and more than 2.5 million nutrition points.

The top 1,000 performers in each category of the Challenge were entered in a drawing to win a trip to Los Angeles to see the Biggest Loser Television finale next Tuesday, May 24th. Grand-prize winner JoAnn Buck of Burnsville lost 30 pounds during the Minnesota Challenge and will be bringing her adult daughter with her on the trip.

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Rice County Gets Healthy

These days, over 8,000 employees across Rice County are on the move, making better food choices and reducing tobacco use. The secret behind their health kick? Rice County’s Statewide Health Improvement Program worksite project, Healthy Rice County: Achieving Wellness in the Workplace.

Since early 2010, the program has helped more than 20 worksites in Faribault, Northfield and surrounding areas to learn about ways to offer healthier foods and encourage employees to increase activity and reduce tobacco use.

“Interest in the program began when Rice County Public Health sent a press release to media outlets about the new SHIP initiative,” says Natalie Ginter, Rice County SHIP Coordinator. “Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota led the recruitment process by mailing invitation letters and making follow-up phone calls to top leaders and human resources staff of more than 80 Rice County organizations.”

Once the interest level of each organization was determined, Blue Cross led education and consulting efforts among the participating organizations, helping each to understand and successfully implement the best practices for worksite wellness.

“In our work guiding employers to create a culture of health, we have provided detail on what it takes to be successful,” says Linda M. Pellowski, Blue Cross workplace wellness consultant. “For example, leadership support is the most critical, and a representative wellness committee can help with sustainability and continuity. The best practices for each component were given as a framework along with mentoring and examples from other success stories as a way to encourage employers to adopt the recommendations as best as they can.”

After learning about best practices, the participating organizations used a vision and goal-setting document provided by Blue Cross to write their organization-specific workplace wellness goals. Blue Cross then provided implementation plans outlining the action steps necessary for each organization to accomplish its specific goals.

“We hear that those turnkey tools help make it easier for the employer to be successful,” Pellowski says. “For example, should an employer set a goal to write a tobacco-free worksite policy, an assessment checklist, a framework for writing an ideal policy and an actual sample employer policy are provided. We see it as important for the organization to receive comprehensive support to allow for the best opportunity for success.”

As organizations worked to implement their worksite wellness plans, the Northfield Area Family YMCA staff was on hand to help organizations adapt best practices to their individual environments and capabilities. To keep the wellness efforts flowing, each organization will continue to receive consulting and mentoring support from Rice County Public Health and its two partners, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and the Northfield Area Family YMCA, through the fiscal year, which continues through June 2011.

One participating organization, The State Bank of Faribault, has seen a rapid culture shift following its wellness initiatives. It offered employees an incentive of reduced health care premiums for taking certain steps to improve their health. And, nearly all employees engaged. The incentive criteria were participation in biometrics screenings (for cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar) and a health assessment, the setting of a personal health goal, and attendance at two talks within a four-part series about healthy living.
With further encouragement, The State Bank of Faribault has also purchased stability balls for its break room and offers access to information on healthy nutrition. This summer, the bank will map a walking route from its location through the neighborhood to encourage more physical activity among employees.

SHIP’s goal is to help Minnesotans live longer, healthier lives by preventing the leading causes of chronic disease: tobacco and obesity. It launched as part of Minnesota’s Vision for a Better State of Health, the bipartisan health reform package enacted in 2008. SHIP makes it easier for Minnesotans to choose healthier behaviors by making changes in the places where we live, learn, work and play.
SHIP’s mantra is a focus on policy, systems and environmental change. That means that organizations participating in SHIP-funded worksite wellness programs have had less emphasis on programmatic approaches and more on sustainable initiatives such as:

• Increasing the amount of healthy foods offered in vending, decreasing portion sizes in worksite cafeterias, and offering healthier options at reduced prices.
• Implemented a tobacco-free worksite policy that goes beyond buildings to cover grounds and vehicles and making sure employees know of QUITPLAN and other cessation resources available to them.
• Increasing employees’ access to physical activity, for example, by allowing employees to combine breaks with lunch when used for physical activity, and by adding mapped walking routes or an on-site fitness center to an employer’s facility.

Other SHIP-funded projects in Rice County are also helping the community’s collective health status. New bike racks have been installed, public gardens have been planted, and new signage brightens up the county’s walking and biking trails. A workshop on healthy school lunch attracted more than 40 school and day care staff. SHIP initiatives also encourage children and youth to play more actively at recess or through physical education classes, sports or after-school activities.

To learn more about Rice County’s wellness programs, visit healthyricecounty.org

Open a PDF copy of this Rice County worksite wellness success story.

 

State Bank of Faribault employees now have access to stability balls in the office break room.

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West Metro Employers Put Their Heads Together on Health Care

LOCAL BUSINESSES SHARE INSIGHTS WITH TWINWEST CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND ALLIANCE FOR A HEALTHIER MINNESOTA

Focus group provides real-world clarity on health care costs

Minnetonka, Minn. – Area businesses told researchers that the high costs of employee health care benefits continue to be a serious concern. A group of local businesses met today in a focus group cosponsored by the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota and held at the offices of Medica, a member of the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce.

Matt Hughes and Bruce Nustad, president of the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce at a focus group on small businesses and health care.

Businesses represented in the focus group included Cass Screw Machine Products, Cummings, Keegan & Co., Escom Properties, Ferguson Enterprises, Henningson & Snoxell, Hoigaard’s, Juut Salonspa, Mohawk Moving and Storage, Nemer Fieger, Pictura Graphics, Pulte Homes, RMC Publications, The Business Bank, Vinland National Center, among others. Together they discussed a variety of topics and concerns relating to the cost and consumption of health care.

“As more employers develop a deeper understanding of the short- and long-term drivers of healthcare costs and the connection to productivity and lifestyle, the opportunities for employers become more clear,” said Bruce Nustad, president of the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce. “Today’s practical conversation on building a workplace culture around wellness in relation to what does or doesn’t work was an important step in the education process.”

Several participants discussed how they have helped their employees adjust to recent changes in health care by offering information and other opportunities to make healthier choices easier for their employees. Research supports these efforts. In fact, the CDC reports that more than 75 percent of employer health care costs and productivity losses are related to employee lifestyle choices.

“We know that businesses are struggling with health care – from information overload, to information clarity and options for solutions,” says Matt Hughes, executive director of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s Small Business Alliance. “Without question, clear options provide power. But before the needs of businesses can be met, we must know what they determine is most needed.”

Today’s focus group is one in a series of focus groups hosted by the Alliance throughout the state. These focus group meetings are designed to help businesses formulate their thoughts and needs behind their frustrations with health care, determining the kinds of information that they seek, and giving input on how they would like to receive that information. Based upon this feedback, the Alliance will seek opportunities to tailor a health care toolkit to meet the needs of small- and medium-sized businesses.

Many businesses in Hennepin County are making it easier for employees to make healthy choices at work through the Statewide Health Improvement program (SHIP). SHIP is designed to help Minnesotans live longer, healthier lives by preventing the leading causes of chronic disease: tobacco and obesity. Hennepin County SHIP is supporting the efforts of employers to increase opportunities for regular physical activity and options for healthy eating among employees. SHIP was launched as part of Minnesota’s Vision for a Better State of Health, the bipartisan health reform package enacted in 2008.

The goal of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s Small Business Alliance is to bring the best health care information, in the most useful ways, to small businesses and their employees. Information is geared towards developing smarter, more informed consumers of health care and places a special emphasis on workplace health promotion.

The Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota is a public-private partnership that includes a group of Minnesota companies joined together to create fun, engaging and informative events and competitions to help Minnesotans get and stay healthy. Members of the Alliance include Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Cargill, General Mills, Medica, Medtronic, The Midwest Dairy Association, Target and UnitedHealth Group, along with the Minnesota Department of Health’s Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). Learn more at HealthierMN.com.

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