NEW YORK, Sept. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- For the second year in a row, the American Heart Association (AHA) has recognized EmblemHealth as a Platinum-Level Fit-Friendly Company, a program that honors companies committed to helping their employees improve their health by eating better and exercising more. EmblemHealth is the largest regional health insurer in New York State, providing coverage for 2.8 million people through its companies Group Health Incorporated (GHI) and HIP Health Plan of New York (HIP).
According to William Gillespie, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for EmblemHealth, Fortune 500 employers are sponsoring wellness programs because they translate into short- and long-term cost savings and employee retention, while enabling employees to take important steps toward feeling better and living healthier. Dr. Gillespie notes that EmblemHealth has adopted a culture of wellness and has a longstanding tradition of providing diverse health and wellness offerings to its employees.
"We are delighted that the American Heart Association has recognized EmblemHealth for its ongoing commitment to employee wellness and physical fitness," says Dr. Gillespie, who notes that since being recognized by the AHA in 2010, EmblemHealth's wellness program has continued to evolve and grow. "Our employees have embraced the opportunity to get healthier. In just one year, our employee participation has grown nearly 400 percent. Most importantly, our employees have made impressive strides in changing their behaviors and adopting healthier habits."
"The Fit-Friendly Companies Program offers a unique, easy-to-implement opportunity for corporations to increase employees' physical activity, which will help improve their health —and their employers' bottom line," said William Borden, M.D., American Heart Association spokesperson. "Even people who haven't exercised regularly until middle age can reap significant benefits by starting a walking program. A study published in 1986 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that some adults may gain two hours of life expectancy for every hour of regular, vigorous exercise they performed."
EmblemHealth provides broad incentives for employees who adopt healthy behaviors. Employees earn points by participating in workplace wellness programs, including quitting smoking, getting a flu shot and attending a health-related lecture. Points are also given to employees who adopt healthy behaviors, such as joining an exercise class, meeting with an on-site registered dietician, participating in a disease management program, seeing their physician for an annual visit or for scheduling a necessary test or preventive screening.
In 2011, the company expanded its wellness program to address key health challenges. Of 1,628 employees who completed health risk appraisals (37 percent of the company's employees), a large percentage reported issues that put their health at risk, including high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, depression, unhealthy stress levels and back pain. By increasing the number of programs with incentive points by 45 percent, by allowing employees to earn points for covered dependents who participate, and by offering American Express gift cards up to $750, EmblemHealth boosted its employee participation 398 percent in 2011, with 25 percent of all employees now enrolled. EmblemHealth's employees have reduced their total cholesterol, alcohol consumption, smoking, substance abuse, stress and depression levels.
Building on this experience and using this program as a model, EmblemHealth is exploring how it might include a range of employee health incentive programs as a benefit option for its group plan offerings in the future.
EmblemHealth, Inc., through its companies Group Health Incorporated (GHI) and HIP Health Plan of New York (HIP), provides quality health care coverage and administrative services to approximately 2.8 million people. Groups and individuals can choose from a variety of PPO, EPO and HMO plans, as well as coverage for prescription drugs and dental and vision care. We offer a choice of networks, including quality doctors and other health care professionals throughout the region, leading acute care hospitals across the tristate area, and physicians and hospitals across all 50 states. For more information, visit www.emblemhealth.com.
About the American Heart Association (AHA)
The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – America's No. 1 and No. 4 killers. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation's oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit www.heart.org.
About the AHA Fit-Friendly Companies Program
The Fit-Friendly Companies Program provides a catalyst for positive change in the American workforce by helping companies make their employees' health and wellness a priority. Participating companies get free access to program resources such as a free Walking Program, materials to help promote company wellness programs to employees and internal newsletter templates.