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Faced with budget cuts? 'Downsize' some of your occupational health programs
Managers can find creative ways to do more with less
Costly consultants. Personal trainers. Health coaches. Nutritionists. These are some examples of occupational health and wellness programs that might be candidates for cost-cutting, as companies seek to improve their bottom lines.
"Operating on a shoestring is the name of the game here, since we operate on tax dollars," says Diane Harris, RN, an employee health nurse at Franklin County Risk Management in Chambersburg, PA.
If it looks like a program is going to be cut, offer to downsize it instead by reducing incentives, says Grace K. Paranzino, MS, RN, CHES, FAAOHN, national clinical manager for Kelly Healthcare Resources in Troy, MI. "For example, if a $100 iPod incentive is changed to a $50 gift card, that would be a $50 savings per person. Or you could change it to a T-shirt, but then participation might be a factor."
Michael Booth, manager of health programs and human resources benefits at Unum, a Portland, ME-based benefits provider, says the economy "has not impacted our health initiatives at this time." He says this is because their programs are structured so that adjustments can be made if a particular program is not meeting objectives, including financial objectives.
Data from all of the company's health initiatives and programs is analyzed to identify areas where adjustments might be needed. For example, Unum has been offering zero dollar copays on diabetes medications for the past 12 months to increase medication compliance. "We are currently reviewing aggregate medication usage trends to see if the reduced copay is driving greater compliance," says Booth. "Continuation of the program will hinge on the results. Better compliance will ensure the continuation of the program."
If a program isn't meeting expectations or is deemed too costly, consider these low-cost alternatives:
Offer facilitator-led group walks.
These walks can be done using indoor walking routes or by creating walking clubs that meet at scheduled times. "Our fitness staff may assist employees by researching Google maps to provide measured walking routes for employees," says Booth. "Information for all of our outside walking routes is found at our onsite fitness centers and health resource centers." In Portland, Unum upgraded sidewalks and walking routes and provided maps for employees, while its Chattanooga employees have access to an outdoor walking track for physical activity.
Make stairways more appealing.
"A company can positively impact employee activity, especially during the long winter months," says Booth.
Possible costs involved are printing posters, painting stairwell walls, installing brighter lighting, adding attractive artwork, and carpeting the stairs, says Booth.
Tap into Employee Assistance Program (EAP) resources your employer already is paying for.
Most EAP programs provide not only mental health services, but also health, work, legal, and financial resources for employees, notes Booth.
Contact pharmaceutical companies.
"Many pharmaceutical companies offer health promotion and health education programs, from design to implementation, at no charge," says Paranzino. For example, Sanofi-Aventis has programs to assist with diabetes management, and Novartis has programs for blood pressure management.
Encourage employees to take advantage of services provided by the company's medical plan providers.
Harris says her company's current health insurer, Blue Cross, provided sun damage screenings to 130 employees at a health and benefits fair. It also instructed 85 employees on performing self-checks for breast and testicular cancer, all at no charge. The insurer also provided body mass indexes to 67 employees before a recent monthlong walking initiative, Lace Up for Fall.
Your insurer might offer web site health tools, health education articles, personal health plans, and even health risk assessments. "Often, plans will also provide 24-hour nurse lines and prenatal programs," says Booth.
For more information on low-cost occupational health initiatives, contact:
Michael Booth, Health Programs Manager/Human Resources Benefits, Unum, Portland, ME. Phone: (207) 575-4236. Fax: (207) 575-4450. E-mail: email@example.com
Diane Harris, RN, Employee Health Nurse, Franklin County Risk Management, Chambersburg, PA. Phone: (717) 261-3819. Fax: (717) 264-3413. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grace K. Paranzino, MS, RN, CHES, FAAOHN, National Clinical Manager, Kelly Healthcare Resources, Troy, MI. Phone: (248) 244-3894. Fax: (248) 244-4483. E-mail: email@example.com.
Roxann Shiber, RN, COHN, Cherokee Pharmaceuticals, Riverside, PA. Phone: (570) 271-2065. Fax: (215) 616-0150. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stairwell motivational signs and information on improving the appearance of stairwells, tracking stair usage, and installing music is available at no charge on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Healthier Worksite Initiative web site (www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/hwi). Click on "Toolkits" and then under "Physical Activity," select "StairWELL."
A StairWELL Initiative Toolkit can be downloaded at no charge on the Let's Go! web site (www.letsgo.org). Click on "Workplace" and then "StairWELL Toolkit." The kit also gives options for businesses that don't have stairwells, such as how to map out walking paths around worksites and additional resources to help promote physical activity.