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Bringing better health to the workplace

Most businesses recognize their employees' health and well being is key to productivity and business success. That's why businesses are investing in worksite wellness programs that help improve employee health, boost performance and reduce health care costs. In fact, the question for most companies is not whether to have a wellness program, but rather how to implement one successfully.

Innovative approaches in worksite wellness programs include new onsite programs and increased personalization in existing programs. Many companies are beginning to see that delivering wellness programs at the office has several advantages to employees -- and to the bottom line. Strategies that range from offering health screenings and wellness seminars during the work day to establishing full-fledged medical clinics and fitness centers onsite keep workers healthier and reduce time away from the office. Wellness programs are becoming more targeted to focus on employees' specific health issues, while still being vigilant in protecting employee privacy and confidentiality.

Take for example one of CIGNA's newest programs aimed at reducing the prevalence of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is more common than you might think, affecting about one in three employees, most of whom appear healthy but are actually at high risk for developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

People are considered to have metabolic syndrome if they have three or more of these risk factors: excess abdominal fat, as indicated by a waist circumference greater than 40 inches for men or 35 inches for women; a triglyceride count of 150 or higher; "good" cholesterol (HDL) less than 40 for men or 50 for women; elevated blood pressure of 130/85 or higher; and fasting blood sugar of 110 or higher.

CIGNA's intensive, 90-day program is designed to reduce disease and improve health through behavior change. The program is delivered at the worksite in a classroom setting. A trained health facilitator helps participants understand the relationship between lifestyle and chronic disease and helps them learn to make healthy choices. The full program is also available online.

In hour-long weekly classes, participants watch videos featuring renowned medical journalist Dr. Mona Khanna and participate in health educator-led group discussion and activities. Outside of class, participants have 24/7 access to an online learning management system and are given a workbook including further reading, homework and tracking tools.

Another highlight of the program is the social networking site, which allows users to create a profile, access discussion boards and create groups based on their own health goals. The network is limited to class participants and moderated by health educators. It gives individuals the opportunity to meet others who are working toward the same goals and provides social support for lasting change.

In a world where we all face multiple deadlines and competing priorities every day, fitting in wellness may take a back seat to other concerns. Bringing wellness programs onsite makes it easy, convenient, cost-effective and even fun for employees to make health and wellness a priority.

Submitted by CIGNA

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