• May 20, 2008

New BCBSND resource helps employers foster year-round wellness

The third Wednesday in May each year is celebrated as National Employee Health and Fitness Day, but Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) is committed to helping North Dakotans stay well year-round.

As part of its on-going efforts to promote health and fitness each and every day, the company has developed a new resource, "Starting a Workplace Wellness Program." A guide that will help employers implement a comprehensive wellness initiative in the workplace, one that goes beyond presentations and newsletters, can be found on BCBSND's wellness web site, NDWellnessCenter.com.

"Providing resources for employers, where the majority of our members are insured, is key to our focus on North Dakotans staying well," said Mike Carlson, corporate wellness director at BCBSND. "This guide has been added to many other tools and programs we've developed that focus on wellness, including the free online health risk assessment on our wellness web site. We want to help employers implement programs that result in long-term behavior change. Wellness is something everyone should focus on daily, not just on a national day of observance."

The physical, emotional and financial benefits of worksite wellness for both workers and employers have been well documented. According to the National Association for Health and Fitness, employers benefit from enhanced employee productivity, improved management of health care costs, decreased rates of illness, injuries and absenteeism and increased employee leadership skills. Employees benefit from lower levels of stress, increased well-being, self-image and self-esteem, together with an improvement in physical fitness and stamina. Losing weight is another potential benefit.

"There are tangible benefits for both employers and employees when the focus is on keeping or improving your health status," added Carlson. "Spending a dollar on health and wellness programs adds up to a three-dollar reduction in medical claims and absenteeism. Decreasing absenteeism only 1 percent equals a 1 percent increase in profits. Add those numbers to the fact that 70 percent of our health care costs stem from preventable chronic illness, then factor in the emotional cost of dealing with health issues-the benefit is substantial."

The employer guide has been added to a special section of NDWellnessCenter.com that provides employers with information and resources to implement a worksite wellness program at their business. In addition to the free online health risk assessment tools, the web site provides direct links to worksite-based wellness programs specifically for members, My Health Center, the Health Club Credit, Prenatal Plus, Tobacco Cessation, Member Education and the Employee Assistance Program. It is also available free to any North Dakotan employer through any BCBSND office.

"We've said it before, but really the goal here is that all North Dakotans take control of their health, and that we have a culture of wellness in our state," Carlson said. "Take the online health assessment. Concentrate on maintaining or improving your current level of mental and physical health. You'll save money, have more energy and feel better about yourself."