Midlands Area Companies Recognized for Employee Wellness Programs

October 27, 2009

American Heart Association publishes list in Fortune magazine 

COLUMBIA, SC – October 27, 2009 – The American Heart Association recognized 15 Midlands-area businesses as Start! Fit-Friendly Companies for promoting physical activity and health in the workplace. 

The association also released a policy statement in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association that shows worksite wellness programs are a proven strategy to prevent the major modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. These risk factors include smoking, overweight, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Nationally, the association recognized more than 1,200 companies in 2009 – an all-time high. More than 2 million employees participated in the programs.

Those employers who implement wellness programs are experiencing healthy returns on their investment, said Clyde Yancy, M.D., American Heart Association president. These cost savings plus having a healthier workforce matter tremendously in today’s economy. 

Start! Fit-Friendly companies reach Gold level status by implementing various activities and programs to encourage physical activity, nutrition and culture enhancements such as on-site walking routes, healthy food choices in cafeterias and vending machines, annual employee health risk assessments and online tracking tools.

Companies who achieve Platinum recognition-the highest tier- take the program a step further by actually measuring the outcomes of their wellness efforts.

Local companies designated as Start! Fit-Friendly at the Gold level are Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, Colonial Life, Lexington Medical Center, Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative, Inc., Nexsen Pruet, Providence Hospitals, Richardson Plowden & Robinson, PA, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, South Carolina Electric & Gas, University of South Carolina, UPS – Columbia, and Westinghouse Electric Company.

Companies receiving the Platinum level recognition include City of Columbia, Square D/Schneider Electric, and Trane – Columbia Coil Center. 

In the Circulation policy paper, the association said that companies can save up to $15 for every $1 spent on health and wellness within 12 to 18 months of implementing a worksite wellness program. Each employee who works to lower their risk status saves their company an estimated $53 per year; these savings remain each year that employee maintains the low-risk level.

A special advertising section in Fortune magazine included a list of the 15 Midlands companies participating in Start!.

We strongly encourage fitness for our 11,000 employees by providing onsite wellness centers, online private health assessment tools, lunchtime speakers on fitness and nutrition topics, access to smoking cessation and weight loss programs, and much more, said Dr. John Little, Vice President of Health Care Services for BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and chairman of BlueCross’ participation in the 2010 Start! Midlands Heart Walk. Our employees have seen positive results, which is good for our company and the customers we serve. We’re pleased to be recognized as a Fit-Friendly company and encourage other companies to seize the challenge.

Companies interested in joining the Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program should contact the Columbia American Heart Association at (803) 806-3092 or visit http://www.americanheart.org/start to download an application.  Applications should be completed before the Jan. 31, 2010 deadline.

Start! is sponsored nationally by SUBWAY® restaurants, Healthy Choice® and AstraZeneca, and locally by Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina.  This year’s Start! Midlands Heart Walk will be on Saturday, March 27, 2010.  The goal is to raise $600,000 for heart disease and stroke research and education.

About the American Heart Association

Founded in 1924, we’re the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke.  To help prevent, treat and defeat these diseases – America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers – we fund cutting-edge research, conduct lifesaving public and professional educational programs, and advocate to protect public health.  To learn more or join us in helping all Americans, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit americanheart.org.