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Growing healthcare costs continue to be a major concern for Ohio businesses and cities. For some companies, medical costs can consume half of corporate profits. As WKSU's Vincent Duffy reports, many employers are creating workplace wellness programs in an attempt to offset the rising cost of healthcare and have healthier employees...

WKSU's Vincent Duffy reports:

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Growing healthcare costs continue to be a major concern for Ohio businesses and cities. For some companies, medical costs can consume half of corporate profits. As WKSU's Vincent Duffy reports, many employers are creating workplace wellness programs in an attempt to offset the rising cost of healthcare and have healthier employees...

Sick employees cost businesses and governments a lot of money, and it's not just the hospital stays and workplace injuries that drive up the cost. One study conducted at Brigham Young University suggests simple physical inactivity can cost employers up to 15 percent of their total healthcare expenditures.

In order to cut those costs, large companies like Progessive Insurance and Gojo Industries have employee wellness programs that can range from simply offering information to workers all the way to having a company gym on sight. For every dollar spent on employee wellness and health education, companies often see a savings of up to five or six dollars in healthcare costs. But starting a wellness program can be expensive at the beginning, and the benefits come over time.

Three years ago, the Foundation for Healthy Communities, a non-profit charity run by the Ohio Hospital Association, set out to improve workplace wellness in Ohio hospitals. They created a program called "Hospitals as the Healthiest Workplaces in Ohio" and awarded grants to ten hospitals around the state so they could create wellness programs for the employees...

YOST: "One of our hospitals in Union County, in Northwest Ohio, found that this past year their sick time decreased by 4,500 hours."

Mary Yost is Vice President of Public Affairs for the Ohio Hospital Association...

YOST: "We had another hospital down in the Portsmouth area, and they found that from 2005 to 2006 their medical claims with their employees had decreased by 12 percent and the savings per individual insured was over $1000."

Yost says the creation of health fairs, walking programs, lunch and learns and programs to quit smoking showed enough success that the Ohio Department of Health agreed to let the Foundation for Healthy Communities administer money from Governor Taft's Healthy Ohioans initiative. Yost says the plan was to have 19 more hospitals partner with small businesses and communities to export their wellness programs to places such as police departments and donut shops...

YOST: "It's just a really nice variety of employers working with their hospitals in their communities to try out some ways to really get their employees focused on their health, both for as an investment for the employees and to bring down healthcare costs."
One of the employers was the City of East Liverpool, which partnered with East Liverpool City Hospital. JeLayne Dray is the city health nurse for East Liverpool, and says the grant money allowed her to hold a health screening fair, hold information sessions, and get city employees active...

DRAY: "We had a walking program three days a week. The employees were able to take advantage, we had a downtown walk here. Twice a week we utilized our local park which is Thompson park, so we had the walking program there as well as the downtown walk for the employees."

Dray says one employee discovered he was diabetic after the health screening and is undergoing care, and the city obtained licensed credit for CPR training and First Aid classes. Dray says East Liverpool would not have been able begin the wellness programs without the partnership and the startup money from the Ohio Hospital Association's Foundation...

DRAY: "There was nothing in place. I've been in my position here for several years and unfortunately there were no worksite wellness programs that were in place."

But the funding for these partnerships might be in jeopardy. Most of the leadership at the Ohio Department of Health changed when Governor Strickland took over from Governor Taft. Cynthia Burnell is the director of the Office of Healthy Ohio, which is charged with using the state's health prevention dollars more effectively. She says there is money in the proposed budget to inventory the existing programs, but doesn't know if the state partnership with the Ohio Hospital Association will continue...

BURNELL: "I'm not familiar with what OHA was doing specifically with Healthy Ohioans so I'd have to take a look at that in the context of everything else that's going on."

But Nurse Dray says once the programs are in place, she thinks most employers will try to keep them...

DRAY: "Even when the grant period ends here I do hope to be able to continue some programming. It's frustrating because any program takes funding and as in any city or any county right now, funding is hard to come by."

But even without partnership funding from the Ohio Department of Health, officials at the Foundation for Healthy Communities say the issue is important enough that they will continue awarding health and wellness outreach grants. Board Member David Lang says six grants were awarded last week, and while they may be fewer and smaller in the immediate future, their commitment to wellness remains. I'm Vincent Duffy, 89-7...WKSU.

Listener Comments:

Some time before, I did need to buy a good car for my corporation but I didn't have enough cash and couldn't order something. Thank heaven my mate proposed to try to get the mortgage loans at banks. So, I acted so and used to be happy with my collateral loan.

Posted by: TAYLORWallace24 US (US) on July 15, 2012 7:30PM
Employers and insurance companies would be wise to partner with their employees to give incentives for preventive health. They could encorage participation in their local "Y" or private health clubs by giving discounts on their insurance premiums as many are already doing for non-smokers. They could also have contest to give a free membership to their local "Y" or pay for a small part of their membership fee. When you are paying for this membership then you are more inclined to use it. I am 64 yrs. old, still working as a nurse and had knee surgery 4 months ago. I did not need any therapy after surgery (according to my surgeon) because I had been active in a water excersise program 3x/wk. for the past 3 yrs. at our local YMCA. I suspect this saved my health insurance company at least $500. to $1000 or more.

Posted by: Linda Stevens Eldorado, OH (Eldorado, OH) on January 31, 2008 8:43AM

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