March 17th, 2011

Great River Health Systems has been recognized as a platinum-level Start! Fit-Friendly Company by the American Heart Association’s Start! program for helping employees eat better and move more.

“Physical activity and employee wellness are important priorities at Great River Health Systems,” said Jamie Dengler, health and wellness coordinator. “We are honored to receive this recognition. We’re committed to providing the best workplace environment possible. This will benefit our employees’ health and produce more positive results for the health system.”

Platinum-level employers:

  • Demonstrate measurable outcomes related to workplace wellness outcomes
  • Implement at least nine criteria outlined by the American Heart Association in in the areas of physical activity, nutrition and culture
  • Increase healthy eating options in the workplace
  • Offer employees physical activity options in the workplace
  • Promote a wellness cultures in the workplace

All Great River Health Systems employees may participate in its free employee wellness program, called WellEXCEL. The benefits are:

  • Educational sessions
  • Fun department competitions, such as Nerf® Olympics and Live Healthy Iowa
  • Group exercise classes such as aerobics, Pilates, tai chi, yoga and ZumbaTM
  • Incentive challenges
  • Individualized exercise programs in Great River Center for Rehab and Clinics’ Health Fitness gym and therapeutic pools
  • Wellness screening and confidential health coaching
  • Yearly influenza vaccine
  • Yearly wellness checks that include a health-risk appraisal, and cholesterol and glucose (blood sugar) screenings

Between 2009 and 2010, the number of WellEXCEL participants at low risk for disease increased from 61 to 79 percent, and those at high risk decreased from 11 to 5 percent. The number with healthy cholesterol levels (below 200) increased from 77 to 85 percent, and healthy glucose levels increased from 72 to 81 percent.

“This award is for Great River Health Systems employees and their families,” Dengler said. “It represents our administrators’ focus on preventive health, and honors the employees who take advantage of the opportunities we offer for personal improvement.”

The Start! Fit-friendly Company program is a catalyst for positive change in the American workforce by helping companies make their employees’ health and wellness a priority. American workers face increasing health-care expenses and health-related losses in productivity that cost an estimated $225.8 billion a year. Many American adults spend most of their waking hours at sedentary jobs. Their lack of physical activity raises their risk for many medical problems, such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Employers face $12.7 billion in annual obesity-related medical expenses alone.

Start! helps change corporate cultures by motivating employees to start walking, which has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity. Even people who haven’t exercised regularly until middle age can benefits from starting a walking program. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people could gain two hours of life expectancy for every hour of regular, vigorous exercise performed.

Founded in 1924, the American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke, America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers.