The first seminar was covered by Bostrom as an employee
meeting, and the other weekly educational seminars during lunch
hour on Mondays were split — half held on company time, half
on individuals’ own time to help encourage participants’ commitment to the program. Health assessments were conducted
in the beginning and end and some were required to visit their
doctor prior to participating in the program. Bostrom participants
had their body fat percentage measured and then set attainable
new body fat percentage targets based on age and gender. Two
coaches led educational sessions and tracked progress. A different subject was covered during each educational meeting,
such as reading labels and how food affects blood sugar. Participants received a daily journal with stress reduction activities
and positive affirmations, a 30-day supply of supplements that
encourage the body to burn calories more efficiently and slow
the digestion of carbohydrates, customized, low-glycemic index
menu plans (glycemic index is a numerical measure of how
food elevates blood sugar — a higher GI number indicates a
higher likelihood of a blood sugar spike), recipes and a sample
of Transitions’ bars, shakes and meals.
Initially, the entire cost for the pilot program was going to
be employees’ responsibility, but after the group formed,
Bostrom decided to refund half of the cost per employee —
about $300 — who finished the program with “positive results”
— weight loss, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol. Bostrom’s
insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield, does not offer discounts on wellness programs.
No Small Feat
The team experienced impressive results. At the end of the program, the team lost a total of 88 pounds and nearly 40 inches.
Bostrom’s overall results were close to Transitions’ published
study’s averages: four-inch waist circumference reduction, 4 percent body fat reduction and 14 pounds lost per individual. One
participant — Cassida Razor — lost 40 pounds and 14 inches.
All gained energy and newfound knowledge about healthy eating.
Chan believes it is too early to tell whether Bostrom experienced a decrease in absenteeism or sick days due to the wellness program.
“We will need to do some more tracking and hopefully get
more employees to participate,” Chan says. “We will need to
collect more data before we can say [its impact] for sure.”
Measures of success included adhering to the program, losing weight and learning about healthy lifestyles. The success of
the program prompted a company-wide implementation, which
rolled out July 1.
To participate, employees must form teams of four or more
people because company officials believe a group dynamic will
produce better results and build employee morale. These teams
may choose whatever wellness program they desire — the Transitions program or others from diet centers, hospitals, health
clubs — and meet the approval of human resources before
being reimbursed. Each employee may participate in one program per year and recoup 50 percent of the program cost up
to $250 after successful completion of the program — meeting goals and well as attending most group functions.
“While success will depend on the program, ideally we’d
like all employees to be within normal weight and body fat
ranges, which would improve productivity, decrease the need
for certain medications and help us build a better environment
for all employees,” Sheehy says.
People who keep daily records and share them with a coach
lose nearly twice as much weight, according to a 2005 study in
the Annals of Internal Medicine, which evaluated popular U.S.
weight loss programs.
“Compliance also is more attainable through a group because
they see each other daily and can encourage one another by asking, ‘What are you eating for lunch?’ and ‘Did you walk today?’”
Samelak says. “And Bostrom gives an added incentive by offering to pay half of the cost upon completion of a program.”
Razor, who’s worked at Bostrom for 21 years in various
capacities for its clients, is continuing with Transitions through
the company wellness program.
“I’ve lost 50 pounds to date. I am working to achieve my
ultimate goal of losing 175 to 200 pounds,” Razor says. “I am
glad the wellness program concept has expanded company-wide and I hope people will take advantage of it. Knowledge is
the key and when you know better, you tend to do better.”
Heather Ryndak Swink is managing editor of FORUM magazine. She may be
reached at (312) 924-7031 or email@example.com.
THE OCTOBER 2008 SIGNATURE STORY focuses on the Academy of
General Dentistry and the evolution of its online resources, including the
SmileLine program. The Chicago-based AGD is a professional association
of more than 35,000 general dentists dedicated to staying up-to-date in
the profession through continuing education. Founded in 1952, the AGD
has grown to become the world's second-largest dental association, and is
the only association that exclusively represents the needs and interests of
general dentists. It is a 501 (c) 6 organization with more than 70 employees
an annual budget of $13 million. For more information, visit www.agd.org.