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Scripps Health sees tangible benefits from employee wellness program

As a Fortune 100 best employer, Scripps Health has demonstrated its commitment to innovative programs that support its 12,900 employees working across the region on its five hospital campuses, 19 outpatient clinics and various administrative offices. Its latest success is the Scripps employee wellness program.

Since launching the wellness program three years ago, 94 percent of Scripps employees have enrolled. Its success has helped the organization avoid $2.6 million in employee medical and pharmacy costs. Statistics show employees who are highly engaged in the program have 30 percent lower medical and pharmacy costs, a 25 percent reduction in hospital visits, 17 percent fewer emergency room visits and 11 percent fewer prescriptions.

"Employee wellness programs are a win-win for everyone," said Vic Buzachero, corporate senior vice president of human resources for Scripps. "Healthy employees have less health care needs, miss fewer work days due to illness or injury, and are more productive at work, which is all good for the employer. Employees also reap the benefits. Whether they need to lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking or reduce stress, we give them the tools they need to live healthier lives."

The program offers employees an integrated approach to good health and well being through resources, education, screenings and interactive programs. From health coaching by dieticians and biometric health screenings, to on-site fitness classes and chair massages, the program provides several opportunities for Scripps staff to reach optimum health.

Front row on exercise balls (left to right): Cynthia Duke and Liz Shopes; second row: SummerAnne Kennedy, Michiyo Parker, Erika Mitchell, Lemuel Larena, Pat Harvey; third row: Chris Van Gorder, Vic Buzachero, Yasmin Sacro, Bob Wolkowski, Brittany Tosh, Richard Culley, Liz Kern, Julie Salazar, Brad Ellis

Smoking cessation, stress management and weight loss are popular programs.

In 2007, Scripps piloted a weight loss program for employees with metabolic syndrome -- a potentially dangerous collection of risk factors that can lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes or other health conditions.

"After 10 weeks on the program there was a 40 percent decrease in the number of participants who had metabolic disease," said Hamilton Mears, manager of corporate wellness for Scripps.

Twenty-eight Scripps employees completed the pilot program and collectively lost 636 pounds. One of them was Bob Wolkowski, a speech pathologist for Scripps Home Health. He lost 42 pounds by making lifestyle changes. But those changes didn't end after 10 weeks for Wolkowski. Now he walks 3 miles a day, understands the impact of healthy eating and has lost a total of 100 pounds by continuing to follow the program.

In addition to the benefits of improved health, Scripps is putting money in the pockets of wellness program participants. Last year 3,187 employees didn't pay a cent to receive employee-only health insurance because Scripps picked up the cost, which was valued at more than $1.3 million. And thousands of other employees received discounts on health plan premiums for participating in the wellness program.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the wellness program is improved employee morale and retention. Since the program was introduced, employee turnover has decreased to 8.9 percent, compared to national health care benchmarks of 15.1 percent.

So what's next? Current wellness participation rates for 2009 show that the number of employees who will earn year-end health insurance benefits will be significantly higher than last year. The number of employees who participated in on-site wellness screenings also increased 24 percent.

Submitted by Scripps Health

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